India has cautioned that if the Ukraine conflict does not immediately give way to a “meaningful path of dialogue and diplomacy”, there will be “severe repercussions” in the global economy which will derail efforts to secure food security and eradicate hunger. “The global impact of Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing conflicts, including in Ukraine, has impacted lives of ordinary people adversely, particularly in the developing countries, with spiralling energy and commodity prices and disruptions in global logistical supply chains,” First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Sneha Dubey said on Monday.
Speaking at the high-level special event ‘Time to Act Together: Coordinating Policy Responses To The Global Food Security Crisis’ convened by UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid and the Committee on World Food Security, Dubey said the Global South has been adversely impacted both by the conflict itself, as well as by the various measures put in place in response.
The Global South is a term often used to identify regions within Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.“If the conflict does not give way to a meaningful path of dialogue and diplomacy immediately, there will be severe repercussions in the global economy which will derail the efforts of the Global South to secure food security and eradicate hunger in the run up to 2030. Time has indeed come to start factoring in its multidimensional impact which it is having on the Global South, especially the vulnerable developing countries,” Dubey said.
A number of low income societies are confronted with the twin challenges of rising costs and difficulty in access to food grains. “Even those like India, who have adequate stocks, have seen an unjustified increase in food prices. It is clear that hoarding and speculation is at work. We cannot allow this to pass unchallenged,” she said.
Dubey emphasised that the solution to these challenges lies in “global collective action” and assured that India will play its due role in advancing global food security, doing so in a manner that upholds “equity, displays compassion and promotes social justice.” The Russia-Ukraine war is preventing grain from leaving the “breadbasket of the world” and making food more expensive across the globe, threatening to worsen shortages, hunger and political instability in developing countries.
Together, Russia and Ukraine export nearly a third of the world’s wheat and barley, more than 70% of its sunflower oil and are big suppliers of corn. World food prices are already climbing, and the war is making things worse, preventing some 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain from getting to the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia.
Ukraine and Russia mainly export staples to developing countries that are most vulnerable to cost hikes and shortages. Countries like Somalia, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan are heavily reliant on wheat, corn and sunflower oil from the two warring nations. India also voiced appreciation for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s call for exempting purchases of food by World Food Programme for humanitarian assistance from food export restrictions with immediate effect. Dubey told the event that the Indian government has recognised the sudden spike in global prices of wheat which put the country’s food security and those of its neighbours and other vulnerable countries at risk.
“We are committed to ensuring that such adverse impact on food security is effectively mitigated and the vulnerable cushioned against sudden changes in the global market,” she said, adding that in order to manage India’s own overall food security and support the needs of neighbouring and other vulnerable developing countries, it announced measures regarding wheat exports in May 2022.“As we have stated on previous occasions, these measures allow for export on the basis of approvals to those countries who are required to meet their food security demands. This will be done on the request from the concerned governments. Such a policy will ensure that we will truly respond to those who are most in need,” Dubey said.
India had announced that it was banning wheat exports in a bid to check high prices amid concerns of wheat output being hit by a scorching heat wave. Wheat exports were allowed on the basis of permission granted by the Government of India to other countries to meet their food security needs and based on the request of their governments. Dubey stressed that it is necessary for the international community to adequately appreciate the importance of equity, affordability and accessibility when it comes to food grains.
“We have already seen to our great cost how these principles were disregarded in the case of Covid-19 vaccines. Open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate inequity and promote discrimination,” she said. Dubey underlined India’s “own track record” of helping its partners in distress, and said that even in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing conflicts, India has never been found wanting.
“We have provided food aid in the form of thousands of metric tonnes of wheat, rice, pulses, and lentils to several countries, including our neighbourhood and Africa, to strengthen their food security,” she said.In view of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, India is donating 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to the Afghan people. India has continued its humanitarian support for Myanmar, including a grant of 10,000 tonnes of rice and wheat and the country is also assisting Sri Lanka including with food assistance, during “these difficult times”.
India also exported over 250,000 tonnes of wheat to Yemen in the last three months. Last week, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Joyce Msuya acknowledged the wheat shipments from India providing a “key supply line for Yemen” particularly in the wake of the Ukraine war.
“India remains strongly committed to the cause of global food security and also has contributed to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the UNOCHA in response to various humanitarian crises over the years. Our spearheading of the UN General Assembly Resolution for declaring Year- 2023 as the ‘International Year of Millets’ was aimed at addressing similar such food security challenges,” Dubey said. She also highlighted that India is running the world’s largest food-based safety net programme, which has seen a paradigm shift from welfare to a rights-based approach. To achieve targeted delivery during Covid-19, food assistance to 800 million people and cash transfers to 400 million people were provided by the government.