TIt is obvious that the potential disastrous consequences of Ukraine’s war on terror for world food security will be devastating. Even more dire are the implications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report on the resilience and sustainability of the global food system. Millions of people are headed towards poverty and hunger due to rising food prices, conflict and COVID-19.
We don’t need any more warnings. What are we going do about it? The international community has five options to address the immediate food crisis and create a sustainable, resilient and more sustainable global food system in the future.
We must first ensure that trade flows are open and free to all nations. This is essential for food supply. Trade barriers and export restrictions are damaging to all sides, and particularly in times of crisis—as the world learned in early 2020 when nations reacted to the arrival of COVID-19 by hoarding vital medical supplies, undermining global solidarity.
Protectionism seems to be back on the rise. States like Turkey, Serbia, Indonesia, and Serbia have already restricted exports of flour and oil as war increases the cost of staples such as wheat. Egypt’s temporary ban on wheat exports could be devastating for Yemen. Shortsighted tendencies can be mitigated by strong unity and cooperation from the world’s leading nations. The G7’s call on all nations to “keep their food and agricultural markets open” sets the right direction and must be held firm; the G20 must follow suit.
Second, even if Ukraine’s farmers are able to sow this season’s crop in the coming weeks, which is uncertain, it is highly likely that the world will still face shortages. It is imperative that we increase the production in other parts of the globe, and do so quickly.
The E.U. There is an opportunity in the E.U. to reallocate the land used to produce biofuels to be used for the production of food crops. A third of U.S.-grown grain and three to four million tonnes of E.U.-grown bread go towards producing biodiesel. American soybeans are used for biodiesel, but a significant portion of European rapeseed and American rapeseed is used for it. An urgent shift from biofuels to food production—linked to a broader strategic effort to increase renewable energy and reduce dependence on oil and gas—would be a win for both food security and the climate.
It is vital that smallholder farmers in Africa have access to the fertiler, infrastructure, and financial support they require. Investments in soil health and agricultural innovation could lead to greater productivity increases and higher yields around the globe, even in China. These investments should not be made without regard to the protection of critical ecosystems such as forests and wetlands. The world would suffer further from environmental conflicts if it pulled back on hard-fought protections. This is unnecessary.
A third, all countries need to work together with good intentions to share data. While national stockpiles are often essential for food and nutrition security, they also have a role to play in reducing food prices and helping with humanitarian crises.
The fourth is to provide emergency humanitarian financing, as well as the support for the poorest people in the world. This includes sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. It includes cash transfer programmes, debt relief and cash transfer programs. Smallholder farmers also have access to markets, credit, food and other financial services. There is also a significant package of support available for the most vulnerable nations in order to aid them in adapting to and responding to climate change. This agenda can be shared at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings.
The current crisis should be a catalyst for a rapid transition towards a more equitable, sustainable, and fair global food system in the long term. This system could dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and make existing pesticides less effective. It would also be less dependent on fertilizers and other chemicals and leave them less harmful. It would also reduce meat consumption, as well as redirecting food and agricultural subsidies in order to help the transition.
While the war caught people off guard, it did not cause a food shortage. We can work together in solidarity to provide nutritious food to all people, even during the crisis. This is possible by giving the land to the farmers and building resilience to future crises. Moral leadership and vision of the highest order are essential for leaders of business, government, and the general public.
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