Food diplomacy: EU and UN to fight Russia with agricultural aid
15 Apr 2022 --- EU officials are working with the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) to counter the growing impact of ingredient and fertilizer shortages in vulnerable areas like the MENA region and Balkans – something blamed on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Leaders fear that the decimation of grain production and inflation of fuel prices will push countries like Egypt and Lebanon, which rely heavily on imported produce, into starvation and further political turmoil.
This week, the EU’s commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarčič, met with the UN to form strategies that could prevent these scenarios.
“The rising food prices are putting the most vulnerable people across the globe in an even worse situation. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine increases the pressure on food systems and threatens millions worldwide with hunger. We are now at a turning point, and urgent action is required,” remarks Lenarčič.
“The EU is committed to strengthening our partnership with the UN to ensure that we leave no one behind and continue to provide humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable while keeping our longer-term engagement to address the root causes of food crises.”
Political allegations between Russia and the EU are seeing blame for the global food crisis exchanged. The Kremlin says sanctions are destroying supply chains and raising prices beyond affordability, and Western leaders point to Russian bombings of storage facilities in Ukraine.
To avoid resentment building against the West, the EU is announcing it will provide €225 million (US$244 million) in aid to the MENA region.
Around half of this will be sent to Egypt, while Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority are to receive emergency funds between €15 and €25 million (US$16.2 million and US$27.1 million) each.
Another €300 million (US$324.8 million) in agricultural support is to be provided to Western Balkan countries. Serbia is currently considered a concern for the EU because of intensive Russian communications there, EU officials say.
A key strategy discussed by the EU and UN is the French Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission (FARM) initiative, which would implement three key diplomatic pillars to ease food shortages globally:
- A trade pillar to ease tensions in agricultural markets, guarantee full transparency on flows and stocks and combat “unjustified” trade barriers.
- A solidarity pillar to support Ukraine’s agricultural capabilities, ensure access to agricultural commodities at reasonable prices in the countries most affected, and prepare to alleviate the war’s effects on the level of agricultural production.
- A production pillar to strengthen agricultural capabilities sustainably in the countries most affected.
As of September 2021, 161 million people were facing acute food insecurity worldwide. The UN estimates that an additional 8 to 13 million people globally could become undernourished due to the war in Ukraine. Food prices jumped nearly 13% in March this year.
By Louis Gore-Langton
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