By attacking Ukraine, Russia has dealt a severe blow to the food security of millions of people. The impact of this war goes far beyond Ukrainian borders, all over the world: all countries are affected by the rising cost of agricultural products; but it is particularly sensitive for the population of several developing countries, in an already present context of great food insecurity and malnutrition.

An already worrying situation before the war in Ukraine

Globally, around 800 million people suffer from hunger according to the latest available estimates. At the end of 2021, 193 million people were facing a food crisis situation, in 53 countries or territories .

Before the Ukrainian crisis, several countries were already in a very precarious situation , due to security, economic or climatic weaknesses, and in particular the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to an increase of nearly + 120 million the number of hungry people in the world.

Russian aggression against Ukraine already has and will have destabilizing consequences on food security , due to:

the importance of Ukraine and Russia in world agricultural and food trade (between them, around 30% of soft wheat exports and 13% of corn exports in the world in 2021, according to the FAO);

the blocking of Ukrainian ports by Russian naval forces and the ongoing offensive on the rest of Ukrainian territory, which are leading to the reduction of Ukrainian export capacities by 90%;

the impact of the war on Ukrainian production

directly due to the destruction of storage or transport equipment and infrastructure;

indirectly mainly due to a shortage of fuel but also of fertilizers, phytosanitary products and seeds or even due to a lack of manpower.

This situation is extremely penalizing for certain countries in Africa, the Near and Middle East which are highly dependent on agricultural exports from Russia and/or Ukraine for cereals, vegetable oils or even fertilizers. For all countries, this is disrupting global supply chains.

All these elements make this aggression the trigger for a major worsening of global food insecurity, already particularly strong in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Solidarity initiatives in a context of multilateral actions

France is convinced that the response to food crises, to be effective, must be rapid, united and multilateral.

On March 24, France, in its capacity as President of the Council of the European Union, presented the FARM initiative for food security in the most vulnerable countries. It conducts its action through several multilateral bodies:

The World Food Program (WFP).

French food security aid aims in particular to strengthen the action of international organisations, primarily the World Food Programme .

The FAO ( Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ).

France’s support also involves rapid mobilization of the FAO  :

In April 2022 , an extraordinary session of the FAO Council was convened at the request of around 40 Member States, including the 27 EU countries. This meeting resulted in the adoption of a decision co-sponsored by 80 Member States, calling on FAO to:

closely monitor the implications of war on global food security;

present short, medium and long-term plans to meet these challenges.

In May 2022 , the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs spoke at the FAO Regional Conference for Europe. He called for a food solidarity response to support the Ukrainian agricultural sector and the countries most exposed to the consequences of the war. This conference also saw the adoption by a large majority of a decision strongly condemning Russia and formulating specific expectations of the FAO.

Within the framework of the G7 and the United Nations

France is convinced of the value of an operational roadmap, in order to amplify our impact and ensure the accountability of our action. This is the objective of FARM, which we want to decline with our regional partners, particularly on the scale of the African continent, in order to meet the needs identified locally. The efforts undertaken by the German presidency with the launch of the Global Alliance for Food Security (GAFS) and by the United States within the framework of the “Call to Action” are essential in order to rally all the willing partners to our objectives, including on the private sector side.

These actions do not exempt us from responding operationally to the immediate needs of Ukrainian farmers . These are off-road diesel, fertilisers, phytosanitary products and seeds, all essential for future agricultural work – in particular for spring sowing and future harvests.

In particular, France is financing, to the tune of 2 million euros, an FAO project which specifically aims to support the Ukrainian agricultural sector weakened by the war. This is a very short-term issue, while the FAO estimates that the yield of the next wheat harvest in Ukraine could be 28% lower than last year.

The FARM initiative ( Food & Agriculture Resilience mission )

The French proposal is to structure the FARM initiative around 3 pillars , with the support of international organizations (World Trade Organization (WTO), World Food Program (WFP), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in particular) which are strongly mobilized on the implementation of this roadmap:

1. a commercial pillar, to ease tensions in agricultural markets comprising  :

an emergency stock release plan in the event of a crisis, to avoid any situation of shortage and moderate price increases.

a multilateral commitment not to impose restrictions on the export of agricultural raw materials.

transparent monitoring of agricultural trade barriers and market prices.

2. a pillar of solidarity, to prepare from the summer of 2022 for the first effects of the war in Ukraine , and for a potentially lasting drop in the volumes exported by Ukraine, on which many countries in Africa and the Middle-East depend. Orient as well as the WFP for its operations.

France is working closely with the WFP to define a solidarity mechanism that could play a “buffer” role in the event of an aggravation of the crisis. This mechanism would allow the WFP and/or the most fragile countries to obtain supplies at prices below those of the market.

3. a pillar for developing production in the countries most concerned

Drawing on its experience in this area, IFAD has already made a very concrete proposal for:

increase investments in sustainable and resilient production systems,

initiate in-depth work on eating habits with a view to reducing dependency on exports,

strengthen the integration of local and regional markets,

fight against food loss and waste.

The immediate objective is to bring together all the donors interested in IFAD’s coordination role, in order to enable it to start its action at the operational and financial level.

These 3 pillars must be broken down with regional partners, particularly on the scale of the African continent, in order to best meet the needs identified locally.

In line with the commitments made at the last European Union-African Union Summit, the ambition is to work with African partners on the development of key sectors such as vegetable proteins as well as the accelerated implementation of the Great Green Wall . These efforts could translate into a joint EU-AU plan for the 3rd pillar of FARM, to reflect the objectives that are at the heart of the AU’s food and agriculture strategy.

Source: France in Burundi French Embassy in Bujumbura

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