Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Crisis of affordability may become next year’s global food shortage

November 16, 2022
Food shortage

Without coordinated action, this year’s crisis of affordability may become next year’s global food shortage, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said. Speaking at the Group of 20 (G20) session on the food and energy crises, in Bali Guterres said, we are on the way to a raging food catastrophe.  People in five separate places are facing famine. Simultaneously, we are witnessing a crunch in the global fertilizer market.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, and the agreement to facilitate the supplies of Russian fertilizers, including ammonia, to global markets are essential. “Our contacts with the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and others have succeeded in removing many of the obstacles to the free flow of Russian food and fertilizers to global markets.  Today, a first shipment of Russian fertilizers donated by Uralkem and managed by the World Food Programme (WFP) will start to be loaded in a Dutch harbor,” Guterres said. Despite the initiative, food shortage might have a lasting impact on some of the poorest countries.

“Food and fertilizers are not subject to sanctions, but suffer indirect impacts.  We are working nonstop to resolve all remaining issues, chiefly around payments, and to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative.  I count on all of you to support these efforts.” Guterres pointed out that a second major cause of this food crisis was lack of financing.  Many Governments in the global South, battered by the COVID‑19 pandemic, the inequality in resources available for the recovery and the climate crisis, have no fiscal space to help their people deal with rising food and fertilizer prices accelerated by the war.

“My call for a Sustainable Development Goals’ stimulus is aimed at providing these countries with adequate liquidity, through a wider reallocation of special drawing rights, concessional financing to middle-income countries in distress, and effective mechanisms of debt relief and restructuring,” he said. Transformational investments in agriculture, particularly in Africa, are essential to prevent future crises.  But they need the resources to be implemented.

The climate crisis is the third factor pushing people into hunger.  Changing weather patterns, droughts and storms are disrupting crop cycles and fisheries, he said. “Eighty percent of global emissions are sitting around this table.  There is no way we can defeat climate change without a climate solidarity pact between developed countries and large emerging economies.”

Developed countries must take the lead in reducing emissions.  They must also mobilize, together with international financial institutions and technology companies, to provide financial and technical support so that large emerging economies can accelerate their transition to renewables, he said while adding that the Just Energy Transition Partnerships are an important first step. Many developing countries cannot afford soaring energy prices.  We must avoid an energy scramble in which developing countries will come off worst — as they did in the competition for COVID‑19 vaccines.

“Doubling down on fossil fuels is not the solution.  If, in the last two decades, the world had massively invested in renewable energy, rather than its addiction to fossil fuels, we would not be facing the present crisis,” Guterres said.

He pointed out that unity, solidarity and multilateral solutions were needed to address the food shortage and energy crises, and to eliminate the trust deficit that is undermining global action across the board. “Multilateral solutions can only be built on fairness and justice.  I urge G20 countries to consider these fundamentals in your decisions, the UN Secretary General said.

Girja Shankar Kaura

The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist, who has reported and written on a wide range of subjects in an extensive career.