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UN agency: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has driven up food prices worldwide.

Statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization show that food commodities prices in March surpassed the record set in February

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said on Friday that “promoting agricultural resilience in Ukraine and around the world has never been more critical to avert a global food crisis,” adding that food commodity prices had recently reached their highest levels ever.

The FAO’s Food Price Index, which analyzes monthly changes in international food prices, reached a new high in March, exceeding February’s previous high.

In March, the index was measured at 159.3 points, up 12.6 percent from February. The figure reflects new all-time highs for vegetable oils and grains, which the agency mostly attributed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting disruptions in both countries’ exports.

The repercussions of such disruptions, which occur in the midst of ongoing conflicts and the Covid-19 pandemic, are felt far and wide, with terrible effects for world famine and malnutrition. Ukraine and Russia account for over 30% and 20% of global wheat and maize exports, respectively, and about 80% of global sunflower exports.

Last month, Jakob Kern, the United Nations World Food Program’s emergency coordinator for the Ukraine crisis, warned that Ukraine’s “food supply system is collapsing.” And because the Middle East and North Africa import over 90% of their food, the export interruptions have hit millions of people particularly hard.

According to FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, record-high prices have put “exceptional burdens on global consumers, particularly the poorest,” he said on Friday. Russia’s status as the world’s largest fertilizer exporter adds to the agency’s concerns.

“Today’s high fertilizer prices could lead to lesser fertilizer use next season and possibly beyond,” Qu added, “with the real possibility of a drop in agricultural productivity leading to even higher food prices.”

“This could result in even more undernourished people in 2022 and the months ahead,” he said.

Qu stated that food exports “should not be regulated or taxed” in response to the issue.

The FAO’s latest index was released a day after activists for Indigenous and small-scale farmers urged the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to convene an urgent session on the escalating food crisis, focusing on the voices of those most positioned to plan a just response.

In an open letter to CFS head Gabriel Ferrero, the organization, formally known as the Coordination Committee of the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism for Relations with the CFS, expressed “an extreme sense of urgency.”

“For the short-, mid-, and long-term, the frightening situation necessitates an immediate, sound, inclusive, effective, and globally coordinated policy response,” the letter adds. “It is time for the CFS to take a central and coordinating role in the policy responses to this new layer of crisis, as the most inclusive intergovernmental and international platform on food security and nutrition.”

“Global policy responses to this new emergency must fully include our voices as the most important actors for food security and nutrition: peasants and smallholder farmers, Indigenous Peoples, women, youth, pastoralists, food, and agricultural workers, landless, fisherfolks, consumers, and urban food insecure,” the group added.

The civic society organization said in a press release that now is the time to break free from the prevailing chemical-dependent, centralized agricultural system, which is exacerbating climate and ecological catastrophes while doing nothing to solve global hunger.

According to the statement, “Instead of supporting small-scale family farmers, there is a growing narrative that emphasizes the need for a more productivist approach to agriculture. In many situations, public subsidies for fertilizers have also increased, rather than assistance for environmentally beneficial practices like agroecology. These variables, together with the war’s extremely high carbon footprint, pose a greater threat to our world and exacerbate the climate problem.”

“This is not a production issue to be addressed by agrobusiness-as-usual methods,” according to the organization, but rather “another layer of a structural crisis that had already caused hunger and malnutrition.”

The statement also criticizes “the agro-industrial narrative,” which “fails to address the systemic and multifaceted causes of interwoven crises, wars, inequality, and climate breakdown” due to its “limited focus on increasing production at whatever cost, global value chains, and short-term fixes.”

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