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Trade and Food Security in a Climate Change-impacted World

October 7, 2022

The war in Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, and the continued economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic are reversing years of development gains and pushing food prices to all-time highs.  Against the backdrop of this significantly more challenging context, the world economy is expected to experience its sharpest deceleration in more than 80 years. This raises the risk of stagflation, with potentially harmful consequences for middle- and low-income economies alike.

75 million more people are expected to be pushed into extreme poverty by the end of this year relative to pre-pandemic projections. Globally, hunger levels remain alarmingly high. The number of people affected by hunger rose in 2021 to 828 million, an increase of about 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global food crisis has been partially made worse by the growing number of food trade restrictions put in place by countries with a goal of increasing domestic supply and reducing prices. In addition to export restrictions, some countries have eased restrictions on imports, which can place additional pressure on food prices by increasing demand.

Moreover, rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and more frequent extreme weather events are impacting food production and distribution systems throughout the world. Climate change is no longer a distant threat. It has reduced global agricultural productivity by about 21% since 1961. This is threatening economic development trajectories by stunting growth, subsequently reducing employability and labor productivity, especially for development countries.  

The seminar will explore how trade will increasingly become even more important to diffuse the food crisis in an increasingly climate afflicted world plagued by changing weather and extreme weather events. It will highlight the state of food security in the world and how global food trade restrictions have compounded food insecurity caused by the war in Ukraine.  It will also look at the existing trade policies governing agricultural trade and discuss actions at the global, regional and country levels that can help ensure that trade plays a critical role it can in addressing food security and climate change.