ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged United Nations chief António Guterres to call a meeting of agriculture ministers of all member states to assess and submit a report on the food needs for 2023 and 2024.
The president’s media division (PMD) said in a statement that Wickremesinghe had made this request from both Guterres and President of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi at a round table discussion on food security at the ongoing COP27 conference on climate change in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
The president has emphasised the need to work closely with the multilaterals, sources of funding and the need to formulate a sustainable debt relief plan immediately to ensure global food security, the PMD said.
It is essential to finalise this plan by February 2023 and for it to be implemented by the end of the 1st quarter of 2023, the president has said, noting that otherwise the damage caused to the political and social structures of countries will be irreparable. He also highlighted the urgent need to compile a medium-term plan to ensure global food security at COP28.
The full text of his remarks, according to the PMD statement, is as follows:
“There are nearly one billion people who are suffering from hunger today, and according to the IMF, over 300 million people’s livelihoods are in danger. Countries affected fall into two categories,
1. Countries where food is no longer available. These countries either have no means to buy the food due to rising costs or are unable to produce their own food.
2. Countries which traditionally had an adequate food supply but now find these sources of food out of reach due to rising costs.
There was a time when Sri Lanka had no fertilizer and was unable to produce our own food. However, the successful food security program is a combined mechanism for food security and the recently accessible fertilizer stocks that was made possible thanks to the international community. Nevertheless, there is a sizeable group who do not have the economic resources to access food.
All must ensure that food is made available to countries that fall within these two categories. Secondly, they require financial assistance to provide food for their populations.
Common to both categories is the rising levels of debt servicing. The increasing cost of debt has meant that it is more difficult for the developing countries to ensure affordable food for the total population.
The IMF estimate that the food and fertilizer price shock, coupled with the rising costs of debt servicing, will add US $9bn to the food import bills of the 48 worst affected countries. This means that a resolution to the debt crisis is needed to tackle both these categories.
Currently we are seeing that there is no overall plan to address this situation, and no focal point. The UN together with COP and the FAO, the World Food Program, the World Bank, and the IMF, must form that focal point.
I urge the Secretary-General of the UN and Egypt, as the head of the COP27, to call a meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture of all countries to assess the food requirements of 2023 and 2024 and submit a report on the food position. Working together with the multilaterals, sources of funding and a sustainable debt relief plan must be formulated. It is essential that this plan is finalized by February 2023 and taken up for implementation by the end of the 1st quarter of 2023.
We must act fast; otherwise, the damage caused to the political and social structures of countries will be irreparable. At COP28, it is of utmost importance that we compile a medium-term plan to ensure global food security.” (Colombo/Nov08/2022)