FAO, IMF, World Bank, WFP and WTO calls for urgent action to address the global food security crisis

03 March 20234 min reading

In their third joint statement, the Heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, World Food Programme, and World Trade Organization call for continued urgent action to address the global crisis on food and nutrition security.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General QU Dongyu, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank Group (WBG) President David Malpass, World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley and World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala issued the following joint statement calling for continued urgent action to address the global crisis on food and nutrition security:

Globally, poverty and food insecurity are both on the rise after decades of development gains. Supply chain disruptions, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, financial tightening through rising interest rates and the war in Ukraine have caused an unprecedented shock to the global food system, with the most vulnerable hit the hardest. Food inflation remains high in the world, with dozens of countries experiencing double digit inflation.

According to WFP, 349 million people across 79 countries are acutely food insecure. The prevalence of undernourishment is also on the rise, following three years of deterioration. This situation is expected to worsen, with global food supplies projected to drop to a three-year low in 2022/2023. The need is especially dire in 24 countries that FAO and WFP have identified as hunger hotspots, of which 16 are in Africa. Fertilizer affordability as defined by the ratio between food prices and fertilizer prices is also the lowest since the 2007/2008 food crisis, which is leading to lower food production and impacting smallholder farmers the hardest, worsening the already high local food prices. For example, the reduction in 2022 of the production of rice, for which Africa is the largest importer in the world, coupled with prospects of lower stocks, is of grave concern.

In response to the inflation of food, fuel and fertilizer prices, countries have spent over $710 billion for social protection measures covering 1 billion people, including approximately $380 billion for subsidies. However, only $4.3 billion has been spent in low-income countries for social protection measures, compared to $507.6 billion in high-income countries.

To prevent a worsening of the food and nutrition security crisis, further urgent actions are required to (i) rescue hunger hotspots, (ii) facilitate trade, improve the functioning of markets, and enhance the role of the private sector, and (iii) reform and repurpose harmful subsidies with careful targeting and efficiency. Countries should balance short-term urgent interventions with longer-term resilience efforts as they respond to the crisis.

1. Rescue hunger hotspots

We call on governments and donors to support country-level efforts to address the needs in hotspots, share information and strengthen crisis preparedness.

2. Facilitate trade, improve the functioning of markets, and enhance the role of the private sector

Countries should minimize trade distortions, strengthen the provision of public goods, and enable the private sector to contribute meaningfully to improved food security outcomes. We repeat our urgent call for countries to (i) avoid policies such as export restrictions, which can impede access to food for poor consumers in low-income food-importing countries; (ii) support trade facilitation measures, to improve availability of food and fertilizer, (iii) support trade finance initiatives in a transparent and indiscriminatory manner; and (iv) adhere to the commitments made at the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference.

While countries have lifted some export bans on wheat and rice, new export restrictions and bans, particularly on vegetables, are hampering availability on global markets. Global food security can be strengthened if governments support both food producers and consumers in a smart and targeted manner, such as by strengthening the provision of public goods in ways that improve farm productivity sustainably. Countries can use e-voucher schemes for fertilizers and avoid large-scale public procurement and subsidized distribution schemes, either on farm inputs or farm products, that crowd out the private sector.

3. Reform and repurpose harmful subsidies with careful targeting and efficiency

Countries should reform and repurpose general universal subsidies towards temporary, better targeted programs for global food security and sustainable food systems, considering the key aspects of (i) efficiency, (ii) cost and fiscal sustainability, (iii) flexibility, (iv) administrative complexity, (v) equity, and (vi) strengthened resilience and sustainability.

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