The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has called on the G7 nations to help anticipate future food shortages.

FAO director general, Qu Dongyu today (Friday, May 13) addressed the G7 meeting of agriculture ministers in Stuttgart, Germany to discuss the consequences of the conflict in eastern Europe on global food security.

The war in Ukraine squeezes supplies, pushes prices to record highs and threatens already vulnerable nations across Africa and Asia, according to the FAO. Qu Dongyu added:

“We need to actively identify ways to make up for potential future gaps in global markets, working together to foster sustainable productivity increases where possible.”

Instead of imposing export restrictions which can exacerbate food price increases and undermine trust in global markets, Qu called on governments to ensure measures increase resilience.

In 2021, approximately 193 million people were severely affected by food insecurity and in need of urgent assistance, which is nearly up 40 million people compared to 2020, according to the FAO.

“It is in this dramatic context that we now face the war in Ukraine,” the director general added.

The meeting in Stuttgart was hosted by German Minister for Agriculture, Cem Özdemir and saw a guest statement from his Ukrainian colleague, Mykola Solsky.

Wheat exports

Both Russia and Ukraine are important players in the global commodity markets, thus the conflict caused surges in the price of wheat, maize, oilseeds and fertilisers – which were already high due to the pandemic, the FAO said.

Despite increased offers by other market players such as India and the EU, supply remains tight with prices likely to remain high in the coming months, as wheat export forecasts from Russia and Ukraine have been down since the start of the war.

Image source: FAO

In March, the FAO food price index reached its highest level since its inception in 1990, and only fell slightly in the following month, the organisation added.

Countries heavily reliant on wheat imports include Egypt, Turkey, Congo, Eritrea, Madagascar, Namibia, Somalia and Tanzania; while key cereal and high-value commodity exporting countries like Argentina, Bangladesh and Brazil are dependent on fertilisers from Russia.

FAO solutions

Market transparency is crucial to the FAO, which seeks further strength and expansion of its Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), an inter-agency platform designed to enhance food-market transparency.

A global food-import financing facility has also been proposed by the organisation to help nations to deal with the rising cost of food.

A mechanism based on needs and limited to low and lower-middle income, and net food-importing countries could benefit almost 1.8 billion people in the world’s 61 most vulnerable countries, the FAO explained.