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“The past two years have been a watershed, profoundly transforming all spheres of our lives. Fortunately, science has helped us better understand and cope with the challenges brought about by COVID-19. Meanwhile, we also witnessed how the pandemic affected production, trade, logistics and the consumption of goods – including food and other agricultural products.
The United Nations and its agencies have worked hard to protect the health and safety of people and the planet, encouraging governments to find ways to build back better. In particular, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has advocated for transformed agrifood systems that are more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable, to achieve the Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.
This call for the transformation of our agrifood systems has echoed around the world.
The United Nations Food Systems Summit in September 2021 was a key step on the path towards this transformation, encouraging all countries to innovate to ensure resilience to the climate crisis, natural disasters and conflicts.
Also in 2021, FAO Members agreed on the FAO Strategic Framework for 2022–31 that articulates the Organization’s vision for a sustainable and food-secure world for all in the context of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This strategic document became even more important in early 2022, when global food security was impacted by yet another crisis.
Each passing day the war in Ukraine is negatively affecting global food security. Ukraine and the Russian Federation are key pillars of global markets. They are important suppliers of agricultural commodities (wheat, maize, barley and sunflower) and other staple inputs, including fertilizers. Combined, the Russian Federation and Ukraine account for around 30 percent of global wheat exports and 20 percent of maize exports.
Shortages will likely extend into next year. According to FAO estimates, at least 20 percent of Ukraine’s winter crops – wheat, most notably – may not be harvested, and farmers in Ukraine will likely miss the May planting season. This will further reduce the global food supply, with serious implications for the Europe and Central Asia region and beyond. Nearly 50 low-income, food-deficit countries in Africa and the Near East depend heavily on Ukrainian and Russian grain supplies.
Food prices were already on the rise due to concerns over crop conditions, export availabilities and price inflation in the energy, fertilizer and feed sectors. As the war in Ukraine sent shocks through markets for staple grains and vegetable oils, food prices soared even higher, reaching a historic peak in March.
Immediate – and, above all, joint – coordinated actions and policy responses are needed to mitigate the impacts of ongoing food security challenges, and FAO has a critical role to play in this regard.
It is crucial that food and fertilizers flow uninterrupted. Agricultural production and trade should...