Rising food prices may prompt unrest in poor countries: WTO Director-General
World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that food price growth that’s happening as a result of the situation in Ukraine may prompt unrest among undernourished people in poverty-stricken countries.
“I think we should be very worried. The impact on food prices and hunger this year and next could be substantial. Food and energy are the two biggest items in the consumption baskets of poor people all over the world,” Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview with The Guardian, adding that “it is poor countries and poor people within poor countries that will suffer the most.” The WTO chief went on to say that the WTO member countries should avoid the strategy of restricting the export of their own food supplies, providing an example of the so-called “vaccine apartheid” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is a natural reaction to keep what you have — we saw that with vaccines. But we shouldn’t make the same mistake with food
“It is a natural reaction to keep what you have — we saw that with vaccines. But we shouldn’t make the same mistake with food,” she added. Okonjo-Iweala also said that Russian and Ukrainian wheat supplies account for 24% of the global market and that Ukraine provides about 50% of wheat to the World Food Programme, warning of a new possible catastrophe.
“If we don’t think about how to mitigate the impact of the war that will be another catastrophe, not just this year but next year,” she said, adding that “we are talking to our members and urging them not to compound this crisis by having export restrictions on food.”
Ukraine and Russia remain the world’s leading suppliers of wheat as well as sunflower, rapeseed, linseed and soybeans used for oil and animal feed. Half of the world’s sunflower oil comes from Ukraine and another 21% from Russia. In Italy, prices of bread, pasta and meat have already risen as the country imports most of its wheat from Eastern Europe and 80% of its sunflower oil from Ukraine.
Earlier this week, President of the German Farmers’ Association Joachim Rukwied said that the cost of wheat and other foods in Germany has increased significantly since the beginning of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine and is expected to keep increasing. At the same time, the Carrefour supermarket chain, which is widely represented in France, Spain and Italy, said it was not experiencing any scarcity.
Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland warned that Somalia, importing 90% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia, may face acute food insecurity.
Last week, the WTO told Sputnik that it had received a statement of intention to take action against Russia over its military operation in Ukraine, including depriving it of the “most favoured nation” treatment, from 14 member states. The WTO was created with the goal of liberalizing international trade and regulating trade and political relations among member states. The organization currently unites 164 countries, Russia officially joined on August 22, 2012, after 18 years of negotiations.
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