War in Ukraine Could Trigger a Serious Global Food Crisis — USAID

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The Biden administration is preparing to dip into an emergency food aid fund due to the ripple effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on hunger in Africa and the Middle East, an official said on Wednesday. from the United States Agency for International Development to legislators. Hunger and poverty could overtake the global food price crisis of 2007-08, USAID’s Sarah Charles said.

Acute hunger around the world could rise to 47 million people if the war drags on, with sub-Saharan Africa the worst affected region, said Arif Husain, chief economist of the World Food Program (WFP). “This means that up to 323 million people could suffer from acute food insecurity in 2022. The world does not need another crisis in the current context which is already in dire straits.”

Besides its effect on hunger, the 2007-08 food price crisis fueled civil unrest, Charles and Husain said in testimony before a House agriculture subcommittee. Hunger caused by disruptions to grain shipments this year and concomitant increases in food prices could lead to new waves of refugees and the destabilization of governments, Husain said.

“I can assure you that we are in very active discussions with the United States Department of Agriculture to determine the details of the reduction of this Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust and we are currently in the process of examining the products and the countries which could benefit of U.S. aid-origin products,” said Charles, assistant administrator for USAID’s Office of Humanitarian Assistance.

The Emerson Trust, named after a Missouri congressman, is a cash reserve to respond to food crises when major government relief programs, such as Food for Peace, are unavailable. The trust held $260 million last year. Money from the trust is used to buy American products to relieve hunger.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not only increased humanitarian needs and displacement in the region, but threatens to further undermine global food security through its impact on global food supply chains” , Charles said.

“The impacts of the current crisis on poverty, hunger and malnutrition could be even greater than those observed during the global food price crisis of 2007-2008 and the civil unrest that followed, because the last crisis followed a period of strong global economic growth. , as the years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic have been characterized by an increasingly severe global economic recession.

USAID is particularly concerned about the impact in regions heavily dependent on food from Russia and Ukraine, which are struggling with high levels of acute food insecurity and which suffer when food prices are increasing, she said. “Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Lebanon, the Sahel, the Maghreb, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen top the list.”

Food prices soared in 2007 and 2008, as growing global demand for food came up against smaller-than-expected harvests and higher oil prices that drove up the cost of food. growing and transporting food. Wheat and rice prices nearly doubled between mid-2005 and 2008. Export bans imposed by some rice-producing countries triggered panic buying and price spikes. Other nations have restricted their wheat exports.

The USDA “stands ready to step in” to support Ukraine and the world’s food supply, said Daniel Whitley, administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, which oversees food aid. “As the situation continues to unfold in Eastern Europe, it is clear that maintaining trade relations on a global scale will benefit all nations at a time when food security is in question for many. Commerce means sharing.

To operate the Emerson Trust, USAID would ask the USDA to release funds. Three dozen U.S. officials, including House Agriculture President David Scott and Rep. Sanford Bishop, chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on USDA funding, wrote to USDA and USAID there. has two weeks, requesting the use of money.

Russia and Ukraine produce 30% of wheat sold in the world and 18% of corn exports.

To view a video of the hearing, click here.

For written testimonials from witnesses, click here.

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