Combating the Global Food Crisis

Author: Munir Ahmed

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is ringing bells to get the rich countries to focus on 345 million people that are facing acute food insecurity in 82 countries while aiming to reach 152 million in 2022. It needs US$22.2 billion this year to feed 152 million hungry human beings. A Recent WFP report claims that “the world faces a global hunger crisis of unprecedented proportions. In just two years, the number of people facing, or at risk of, acute food insecurity increased from 135 million in 53 countries pre-pandemic, to 345 million in 82 countries today.

Fuelled by conflict, climate shocks and COVID-19, the crisis is escalating as the war in Ukraine drives up the costs of food, fuel and fertilizers. Millions of people are struggling to put food on the table and are being driven closer to starvation in a storm of staggering proportions. We are at a critical crossroads. We need to rise to the challenge of meeting people’s immediate food needs, while at the same time supporting programmes that build long-term resilience. The alternative is hunger on a catastrophic scale.” The UN and other humanitarian agencies, on one hand, are preparing and prioritizing emergency action to prevent millions from dying of hunger, and to help build and stabilize national food systems and related supply chains. Only the WFP is aimed at supporting a record 152 million food-insecure people in 2022, a significant increase on 128 million in 2021. On the other hand, the rich countries, the mighty powers, are fueling the armed conflicts. Not limited to Russia-Ukraine, China-Taiwan, China-India and between several other countries across the world. The environment unfriendly industrial revolution has changed the entire atmosphere causing global warming and rapid climate change.

The obvious results are widespread forest fires, heatwaves, cold waves, unprecedented rains and thunderstorms, floods and global pandemics. The armed conflicts and climatic impact have disturbed food production, supplier base and supply chain. While the UN and other humanitarian agencies’ efforts to promote local food procurement and negotiations for humanitarian access and export waivers, the conflicts and climate impact are the main impediments to vigorously handling. All efforts will not succeed until the reasons for the global food crisis are addressed.

Washington and its allies are politicizing the energy sphere to use the interdependence as an instrument of political pressure.

Only one conflict, the Russia-Ukraine war that is being fueled up by the West by providing extensive military aid to Ukraine, has deprived the world of 26 per cent of the total food grain. Just in six months, the US military aid to Ukraine reached about US$ 8 billion. The amount is almost twice the confirmed contributions of US$4.8 billion to the World Food Programme (WFP) by the end of June 2022. It is only 22 per cent of the all-time high required funds for the WFP operations that amounts to US$22.2 billion for the year.

Last month, Russia signed an agreement with Ukraine to allow the latter to export food grains through the Ukrainian Black Sea ports amid fears of a global food crisis. The deal was the outcome of the UN diplomacy supported by Turkey. The deal, signed in Istanbul (Turkey), shows that something good would come out if adequately bridged even between the two warring countries. The deal has started paying off good results and is being considered a significant breakthrough that would help normalize the situation between both countries. But, the threat of the global food crisis is yet not over and remains a bargaining chip for both the US and Ukraine.

The sanctions on Russia are proving futile for many countries including the West. The food and energy crisis has shown somewhat worse to the leading EU countries while the African countries are waiting for the Russian food grains. The West has to rethink its diplomacy with Russia which has strengthened its ties with many of the countries. President Zelensky has to come out of his imagination. Reality is always totally different from aspirations and imaginations. Many ships loaded with the food grains are still waiting for his order to clear the ports before the crisis deepens.

The US and British authorities are well aware that the Ukrainian food grain will not be able to resolve the crisis. They need to lift sanctions on Russia to ensure an undisrupted global supply of grains and energy. In the food fight, the European Union and the US have chosen an alternative route dispelling the myth about the causes of the crisis that Russia warned about a few years back. The rich countries have to be realistic about resolving the food crisis in the poorest countries.

A Russian diplomat has put it on the US for twisting facts to accuse Russia of provoking a global food crisis. He said systemic mistakes in the macroeconomic, energy and climate policies of the West have played a significant role in exacerbating the current economic situation. At the same time, Russia will continue fulfilling its international obligations to supply agricultural products, fertilizers and energy resources. Experts also note the destructiveness of anti-Russian sanctions on the global economy. However, the US and its allies are ready to sacrifice the well-being of many countries for their geopolitical interests. Moscow emphasizes the groundlessness of such accusations based on rabid Russophobia, but also directly points to the responsibility of the European Union itself for stirring up a panic in the world markets, rising prices of energy resources and agricultural products, and deliberate massive export of Ukrainian reserves to be used in its interests.

The US and EU sanctions on energy supplies from Russia destabilize the situation on global markets. Washington and its allies are politicizing the energy sphere with these sanctions, trying to use the interdependence of energy consumers and suppliers as an instrument of political pressure while damaging their economies and the socioeconomic wellbeing of their citizens.

Ukrainian food grain cannot solve the world’s food crisis. Others have to come to support it. Russia shall also be taken on board to export grain through the safe waters of the Azov Sea, Danube via Romania or Hungary and Poland by rail. Another easiest route is through Belarus to the Baltics and further along the Baltic Sea. But the West refuses to lift the sanctions on Russia that threatens the world with hunger. The countries served with the US letter not to purchase the Russian grain shall rethink independently in the best interest of their people. Russian food grains are of better quality at a very competitive price than the Latin countries. The US and EU shall relax the sanctions on Russia to help out the food crisis.

The writer is a freelance journalist and broadcaster, and Director (Devcom-Pakistan). He can be reached at devcom.pakistan@gmail.com and tweets @EmmayeSyed.

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