Economy

FAO official warns some countries will definitely face food shortages

Crisis will escalate; world in quiet, calm time before storm, says assistant director general of Food and Agriculture Organization

Gokhan Ergocun   | 02.06.2022
FAO official warns some countries will definitely face food shortages

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt

Addressing the global food crisis stemming from the pandemic and Russia's war on Ukraine, the assistant director-general of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said there will be no famine but definitely a food shortage for quite some time, especially for countries with low production capacity.

More than 800 million people in the world are already facing food insecurity, Abdul Hakim Elwaer told Anadolu Agency, adding the issue cannot be generalized as it depends on the countries.

Speaking during the Islamic Development Bank Group's annual meeting in Egypt, he said the food crisis did not start today as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been dealing with the crisis for a long time.

Mentioning ongoing global problems such as water scarcity and climate change, he said there is already a lack of ability to produce food.

Elwaer noted that water sources are not stable anymore, "so we cannot depend on the same crop production and harvesting seasons the same time as always."

Russia, Ukraine and the Black Sea region provide a good alternative for cheap food supply for the nearest North Africa region, which is a net importer of wheat and edible oil at 80%-90%.

After the beginning of the war, basic food staples such as wheat, oil and sugar saw significant price increases.

The ton price of wheat increased from the $300 level to the $500 level, while several countries, including Russia, Ukraine, India and Kazakhstan, suspended or limited exports of these basic needs.

"With COVID, the supply chains were interrupted, and it was like a wake-up call," he underscored. "All the countries have realized that there is a dire threat from the food supply chain because of the introduction of disadvantages."

Recalling that the Russia-Ukraine crisis started during the recovery process of the pandemic, he said the world's supply of basic needs had been suspended or interrupted.

There are some countries still on the safe side, but they are panicking because they want to find alternative resources, he stressed.

The FAO is helping the countries by providing them with policy advice, data and information on the global market, the prices and the locations for alternative processes, and domestic production processes, he added.

Fertilizer prices

Elwaer noted that the crop season will come soon, but there is a lack of water resources and soil conditions are becoming harder and more solid.

"So you need more specialized fertilizers, synthetic fertilizer is able to compensate to all these conditions. There is no way that we can maintain our production levels domestically without the use of fertilizer," he said.

Russia produces and exports a large number of fertilizers and fertilizer production is very much dependent on natural gas prices, he said.

There will be high demand for oil and gas and the world is expecting an increase in oil and gas prices, which means an increase in fertilizer prices and shortage.

"Then the crisis will escalate," he said, adding the world is in a quiet, calm time before the storm.

"Of course, this is a global crisis, and the whole global community is interacting together and communicating and uniting together to try and provide short-term, medium-term and long-term solutions," he said.

There are some big donors like the European Union lending some financial resources to the neighboring region to help them use their capacities for producing more food domestically, he said.

But it is not enough, and countries should review their long-term policies about consumption and reduce food waste, he said, adding that a lot of imported food is actually wasted.

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