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Speeches & TranscriptsJune 8, 2022

Remarks by Mari Pangestu, Managing Director for Development Policy and Partnerships at the Ministerial Mediterranean Dialogue on the Food Security Crisis

Good morning and good afternoon. I am honored to be speaking today, although I wish it was under better circumstances.

Global hunger has been on the rise in recent years. In 2021, the level of hunger surpassed all previous records, with close to 193 million people acutely food insecure—nearly 40 million more people than during the previous high in 2020.

The war in Ukraine has dealt a new blow to food systems that were already fragile from two years of COVID-19 disruptions, climate extremes, and worsening fiscal constraints. The price of wheat has nearly doubled compared to January 2021. This is putting bread, a staple in a large part of the world, out of reach for millions of people and exacerbating global food insecurity.

Food crises are particularly devastating for the poorest and most vulnerable people, as poor families typically spend about two-thirds of their income on food. But effects of this crisis are felt well beyond low-income countries – middle-income countries also experience the brunt. What’s more is that rising fertilizer costs could put next season’s harvest at risk in many parts of the world, most likely making the situation even worse.

There are ways to mitigate the impact of this crisis. Countries must take urgent action to lessen the impact of higher food prices and make sure that the most vulnerable have access in four ways:

  • First; support vulnerable households by scaling up social safety nets and providing well-targeted and cost-effective cash transfers to at-risk households wherever possible.
  • Second; enhance next season's production by facilitating farmers’ access to agriculture inputs such as fertilizers, and introduce practices to make sure that farmers are using fertilizer efficiently, to produce more with less.
  • Third; facilitate increased trade by building international consensus to avoid export and import restrictions which have had an impact on the rise of food prices.
  • And fourth; invest in strengthening food systems so the world does not easily fall into another food crisis in the future. Let’s address the short, medium and longer term drivers of food insecurity through smart and sustainable agriculture practices, addressing climate risks.

At the World Bank Group we are making up to $30 billion available over the next 15 months for food security projects. These projects are expected to cushion the effects of higher food prices and support an agriculture supply response by countries.

Due to its sheer scale, no one can solve this food crisis alone. Collaboration and coordination will be key. Together with the G7 Presidency, the World Bank Group has co-convened the Global Alliance for Food Security, an alliance for all countries and organizations to support existing initiatives and catalyze an immediate and concerted response.

The World Bank will continue its support to Italy as we further our dialogue with the UN agencies based in Rome. In closing, I would like to express my appreciation for Italy’s leadership during last year’s G20 presidency, particularly in convening key players to tackle global food insecurity. Only by acting in a concerted manner, will we find a path out of this crisis.

Last Updated: Jun 08, 2022


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