Russia and Ukraine combine almost a third of world exports of wheat and barley.
The crisis in Ukraine and Russia, one of the world’s main sources of grain, fertilizer and energy, presents new challenges to securing food supplies on top of a protracted pandemic, a United Nations official said on Thursday.
“We were not doing well even before the pandemic, hunger was slowly increasing and then the pandemic came,” said Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio, head of the Committee on World Food Security, a platform within the UN for the fight against hunger.
He told The Associated Press that an estimated 161 million more people are hungry than before the pandemic, which adds up to 821 million. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a strong impact on food availability and prices, “so unfortunately we will have to be cautious, but we can see a major impact on global food security.”
He said that countries must be careful in managing their food security. Bangladesh, for example, imports almost half of its wheat from the Ukraine and Russia.
While there have been no global disruptions to wheat supplies yet, prices have risen 55 percent since a week before the invasion.
Russia and Ukraine combine almost a third of world exports of wheat and barley. Ukraine is also a major supplier of corn and a world leader in sunflower oil, used in food processing. The war could cut into food supplies just as prices are at their highest levels since 2011.
At a conference organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Bangladesh, officials also discussed how to deal with the impact of climate change, adopt new technologies and tackle diseases and pests that affect crops and the cattle in Asia-Pacific, the most populous region in the world.
On Thursday, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted her country’s achievement of self-sufficiency in several essential foods, including rice, noting that agriculture remains the backbone of the South Asian nation’s economy. of 160 million inhabitants. The delta nation is one of the worst victims of climate change with millions under threat of losing their homes and land due to rising sea levels and salinity.
Reversing many years of progress, hunger in the Asia-Pacific is on the rise again, said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu. Inequalities are also increasing, particularly between rural and urban populations, while too often women and youth are left behind.
“The pandemic has forced us to reconsider our priorities and approaches and has highlighted the importance of more sustainable and resilient societies,” he said.