Photo: Roscongress Foundation
According to UN estimates, last year one in ten people on the planet could not eat at all. That is, either he was hungry or malnourished. This year, the situation has worsened even more: economic sanctions have been imposed on the difficulties caused by the coronavirus. The food price index reached an all-time high. What to do about it and what is Russia’s place in all these problems, officials and experts discussed at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum session “Food Security: Global Challenges and Opportunities.”
WHY THE FOOD CRISIS HAPPENED
The problems did not start in 2022, the world faced a food market shock as early as 2020.
-Businesses closed, labor migration detained. The usual supply chains were disrupted. All this led to the fact that the supply on the world food market was reduced. And furthermore, countries, by stocking up on food, began to build up stocks critically. For example, China increased its purchases of corn six times during the pandemic. This led to destabilization in the world food market, – said, speaking at the session, Deputy Prime Minister Victoria Abramchenko. – In addition to the factors of the pandemic in 2022, factors related to the imposition of sanctions were added.
Although food is formally exempt from sanctions, in fact there is an almost total naval and air blockade against Russia, whose role in the world food market is now very important. That is, you can sell something, but you still have to manage the delivery of food where it is needed. Also, there were problems with interstate payments. But this is not all problems.
– The cost of gas has increased exponentially. This means that in some countries it is simply not possible to produce fertilizer. And it is still necessary to deliver Russian or Belarusian fertilizers to the key grain-producing regions, – declared Abramchenko.
Andrey Guryev, president of the Russian Association of Fertilizer Producers (RAPU), said that 40% of the world fertilizer trade was closed today. This takes into account not only Russia and Belarus, but also another major supplier to them: China. In Europe, the pandemic has almost been forgotten, while the Chinese continue to have lockdowns.
– If today we do not start selling mineral fertilizers in full in the summer for the next season, then the 2022-2023 season will not only be cold, but also very hungry. Because there will be no harvest, – says Andrey Guryev. – Now we are talking about a special operation, about the crisis that is happening now. But this is an episode. If the required amount of mineral fertilizers is not applied to the land around the world, we will have a major world food crisis.
WHAT ABOUT THE FOOD IN RUSSIA?
– According to the key indicators of the Food Safety Doctrine – grains, meats, oils and fats, fishery products – we more than cover the needs of the country, the needs of the internal market. And all these areas are key for us in terms of exports. We can supply this food to world markets, – says Victoria Abramchenko.
According to her, despite all the risks and difficulties, during the five months of this year, Russia’s exports of agricultural products increased by 16%. In some countries, even sometimes. For example, in India – 3.6 times.
– We will increase food exports, – said the Deputy Prime Minister. – We will solve problems with logistics, with international payments.
Potentially, Russia has the conditions for the growth of agricultural production and the export of these products. We have the first place in the world in terms of land resource area – 17 million square kilometers. According to Victoria Abramchenko, an additional 13 million hectares of agricultural land will be involved in agricultural rotation in the near future. The authorities will seriously help farmers with land reclamation so that these lands will be irrigated. Fortunately, we are second in the world (after Brazil) in terms of freshwater reserves, we can afford irrigated farmland.
HOW TO SOLVE PROBLEMS
– The world needs a global arbiter of food, – says Victoria Abramchenko. – In 1954, the FAO, the world food and agriculture organization, was created in the UN. This organization was created in order to combat hunger on the planet. And I call on UN colleagues and FAO colleagues to create an international Red Cross in food that resolves the problems, the consequences of the illegal sanctions that paralyzed logistics, the consequences of the restrictions imposed on mutual agreements between countries. And that, ultimately, would guarantee equal access for all countries to the food market.
The question of establishing an arbitration body is an interesting one. But FAO continues to work with its authority, its technical expertise, which member countries have entrusted to it, – Oleg Kobyakov, Director of the Department of Relations with the Russian Federation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) , he replied. And he added:
– Among the recommendations that interest our audience today on how to overcome the current food crisis, there is a recommendation – review, analyze the sanctions policy and, if possible, abandon its application.
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