Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

Technical Briefing: Impact of COVID-19 and the War in Ukraine on the Outlook for Food Security and Nutrition 

Opening Remarks 

By 

Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General

 As delivered

25 March 2022

 

Dear colleagues,

Good morning.

1.         FAO joined the call of the Secretary-General to end the war, restore peace and protect people's lives.

2.         We express our solidarity with all the people suffering in this crisis, particularly those whose livelihood depends on agriculture.

3.         At FAO, we are mobilizing our resources and technical capacities to assist within the limitations the war imposes, and in line with our mandate.

4.         This war comes at a time where COVID-19 has already negatively affected economies worldwide, with millions of people losing income and jobs, and pushed into poverty and hunger.

5.         It not only affects the countries directly involved, but and especially the world’s vulnerable populations.

6.         With energy prices rising in parallel to food prices, the purchasing power of the world's vulnerable consumers has decreased sharply.

7.         This additional burden also comes at a time when higher health expenditures and the costs of controlling COVID-19 are already squeezing the budgets of governments and consumers globally.

8.         In addition to food and fuel prices, fertilizer prices have been rising since late 2021, and have now risen to an all-time high, adding to the costs of producing food.

9.         We are concerned that higher fertilizer prices will lead to lower fertilizer use, with adverse impacts on yields of staple and vegetable oil crops, and production prospects across the world.

10.       This would result in a dual problem of food availability and food access, and could result in more undernourished people over the next two years.

11.       The Russian Federation and Ukraine are important players in all three markets of concern: in food (including animal feed), fuel (especially agricultural equipment fuel) and fertilizer markets.

12.       Together, they provide 19% of the world’s barley supply, 14% of wheat, and 4% of maize, making up more than one-third of global cereal exports. 

13.       They are also lead suppliers of rapeseed and account for 52% of the world’s sunflower oil export market – some figures say 80%, but that refers to total production.

14.       The Russian Federation is also a key exporter of fertilizers: in 2020, it ranked as the top exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, the second leading supplier of potassium, and the third largest exporter of phosphorous fertilizer.

15.       Supply chain and logistical disruptions on Ukrainian and Russian grain and oilseed production, as well as restrictions on Russia’s exports, will have significant impacts on food security. 

16.       As I told the UN Secretary-General, sanctions are a double-edged sword.

17.       Particularly for some 50 countries that depend on Russia and Ukraine for 30% or more of their wheat supply.

18.       Many of them are least developed countries or low-income, food-deficit countries in Northern Africa, Asia and the Near East.

19.       Supply disruptions in these two countries is already evident throughout the global agrifood system.

20.       Many European and Central Asian countries rely on Russia for over 50% of their fertilizer supply, and shortages could extend to next year.

21.       They will have to look to alternative suppliers, but that will take time and the countries need an immediate solution.

22.       Higher energy prices also make agricultural feedstock competitive for the production of bio-energy, and this could further increase food prices. 

Dear colleagues,

23.       As you see, we are facing a combination of challenges that do not only affect Ukraine, but also further worsen the global scenario. 

24.       To prevent the world from a global food security crisis, we must ensure that global trading continues to function smoothly and openly.

25.       Exports should not be restricted or taxed, and markets should be kept open.

26.       We also need to increase efficiency in our consumption, but not through subsidizing domestic consumption at large, which can result in a wasteful use of food, energy and natural resources,

27.       But through effective safety nets and well-targeted social protection programmes to guarantee access to food, especially for the most vulnerable.

28.       We should also make every effort to improve market transparency and market intelligence.

29.       FAO is committed to continue providing crucial updated market intelligence to decision-makers and partners so that they can make the right choices.

30.       As the host of the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) secretariat, FAO is playing a key role in this regard.

31.       Hard facts and figures are key to calming markets.

32.       In Ukraine, already prior to the war, FAO had a wide field presence and experience in delivering humanitarian support.

33.       Now, we are scaling up our response, working closely with WFP on the ground, as well as with other UN agencies.

34.       This Crisis calls for a joint approach, closer collaboration and stronger partnership among countries and agencies, and across all stakeholders.

35.       Countries should avoid inward-looking decisions, but rather favour collective solutions for the collective problems we are all currently facing together.

36.       FAO has been working with the G7 Presidency of Germany to provide continuous technical support, and to provide different scenarios for global food outlook and policy recommendations to the Ministers for Agriculture,

37.       And we continue to do so through the G7 process related to our mandate.

38.       This support also includes a closer collaboration with the World Bank and theInternational Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), to ensure that we all bring our comparative advantages together and present a joint proposal to address the challenges faced.

39.       FAO is also working closely with the G20 under the Presidency of Indonesia, to provide policy and technical assistance support throughout 2022.

40.       As you may know, the UN Secretary-General has just launched the Steering Committee of the Global Crisis Response Group on Food (Feed and Fuel), Energy and Finance.

41.       As I have mentioned to the Secretary-General, we are convinced that bringing together food - as a basic human right - energy and finance, is central to assure a comprehensive approach for global stability and peace.

42.       And for concrete solutions to maximize synergies among all key actors.

43.       FAO will be actively supporting the Task Force on Food alongside other UN partners, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions (IFIs).

44.       It is essential to bring Food, Energy and Finance together,

45.       And FAO, as a UN specialized agency, will have a crucial role to play in all three.

46.       That is why on 1 March, I was the only RBA Principal to participate in the Humanitarian Flash Appeal for Ukraine.

47.       On 3 March, together with the Core Leadership, I established a Task Force, coordinated by the Chief Economist and supported by the Deputy Directors-General, for regularly updated information every week to ten days, depending on developments.

48.       We have also had relevant discussions with the Secretary-General, highlighting the need to put food as a global element for the global crisis response.

49.       And on 23 March, the Secretary-General convened the first meeting of the Steering Committee on Food, Energy and Finance.

50.       We need to work together, also for other crises.

51.       Working collectively is the right choice.

52.       Professionalism, transparency and openness are at the core of our dialogue for solidarity,

53.       And to overcome the crises and challenges ahead of us.

54.       I wish to thank the Chief Economist - we have been working day and night to address the crisis and to also continue running the daily activities of the Organization.

55.       As I told the Core Leadership, we have to “play the piano” ensuring that work continues to be carried out across all our activities under FAO’s mandate.

56.       Thank you.

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