The Heads of the World Bank Group (WBG), International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations World Food Program (WFP), and World Trade Organization (WTO) have called for urgent action on food security.
“The world is shaken by compounding crises. The fallout of the war in Ukraine is adding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that now enters its third year, while climate change and increased fragility and conflict pose persistent harm to people around the globe,” World Bank Group President David Malpass, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, WFP Executive Director David Beasley and WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in a joint statement ahead of the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group.
Sharply higher prices for staples and supply shortages are increasing pressure on households worldwide and pushing millions more into poverty, the statement said, adding that the threat is highest for the poorest countries with a large share of consumption from food imports, but vulnerability is increasing rapidly in middle-income countries, which host the majority of the world’s poor.
World Bank estimates warn that for each one percentage point increase in food prices, 10 million people are thrown into extreme poverty worldwide.
“The rise in food prices is exacerbated by a dramatic increase in the cost of natural gas, a key ingredient of nitrogenous fertilizer. 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. The increase in food prices and supply shocks can fuel social tensions in many of the affected countries, especially those that are already fragile or affected by conflict,” the statement pointed out.
The heads of the institutions called on the international community to urgently support vulnerable countries through coordinated actions ranging from provision of emergency food supplies, financial support, increased agricultural production, and open trade.
“We are committed to combining our expertise and financing to quickly step up our policy and financial support to help vulnerable countries and households as well as to increase domestic agricultural production in, and supply to, impacted countries. We can mitigate balance of payments pressures and work with all countries to keep trade flows open. In addition, we will further reinforce our monitoring of food vulnerabilities and are quickly expanding our multi-faceted policy advice to affected countries guided by the comparative advantages of our respective institutions,” they said in the statement.
They urged the international community to help support urgent financing needs, including through grants. This should include financing of immediate food supplies, safety nets to address the needs of the poor, and for small farmers facing higher input prices.
“We also urge all countries to keep trade open and avoid restrictive measures such as export bans on food or fertilizer that further exacerbate the suffering of the most vulnerable people. It is especially important not to impose export restrictions on humanitarian food purchases by the UN’s World Food Program,” they said, adding that it was critical to quickly provide support for food-insecure countries in a coordinated manner.