IMF, World Bank, WFP, WTO call for urgent action on food security


The heads of World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations World Food Programme, and World Trade Organisation have called on Wednesday for immediate action on food security and appealed to countries to avoid banning food or fertilizer exports.

World Bank president David Malpass, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva, WFP executive director David Beasley and WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned that the war in Ukraine was adding to existing pressures from the Covid-19 crisis, climate change and increased fragility and conflict, threatening millions of people worldwide.

The four leaders issued their joint statement ahead of next week’s Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank.

Sharply higher prices for staples and supply shortages were fuelling pressure on households, they said.

The threat is greatest to the poorest countries, but vulnerability is also increasing rapidly in middle-income countries, which host the majority of the world’s poor.

The compounding crises could fuel social tensions in many of the affected countries, especially those that are already fragile or affected by conflict, they warned.

They said the rise in food prices was compounded by a dramatic increase in the cost of natural gas, a key ingredient of nitrogenous fertilizer, which could threaten food production in many countries.

“Surging fertilizer prices along with significant cuts in global supplies have important implications for food production in most countries, including major producers and exporters, who rely heavily on fertilizer imports,” they said.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also expressed grave concerns about the food security crisis during a speech at the Atlantic Council think-tank, noting that over 275 million people worldwide were facing acute food insecurity.

A Treasury spokesman said the meeting would include ministers from the G-7 and G-20 major economies, officials from the IMF, World Bank, and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), as well as lead technical experts on food security and agriculture.

“The event will bring attention to the different dimensions of the worsening food security crisis; and mobilise the (international financial institutions) to accelerate and deepen their response to assist affected countries,” the spokesman said.

Yellen said she would meet with other leaders next week to discuss possible solutions, and underscored the need for longer-term investments to address vulnerabilities in food systems.

In their joint statement, the four leaders called on the international community to provide emergency food supplies to vulnerable countries, boost agricultural production, and keep trade flows open.

For their part, they said they would step up their respective policy and financial support to help vulnerable countries and households and mitigate balance of payments pressures.

They urged the international community to provide grants and other funding for immediate food supplies to help the poor, and small farmers facing higher input prices.

It was important to keep trade open and avoid restrictive measures such as export bans on food or fertilizer, they said, underscoring the need to avert any restrictions on humanitarian food purchases by the World Food Programme. (Source: The Straits Times)