Sixty countries struggling to afford costs of food imports, leaked UN email reveals

Thu 11 Aug 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Leaked UN email warns of global food crisis

A leaked UN report warns that more than 60 countries around the world are struggling to afford agricultural imports.

Countries – including Colombia, Malawi, Pakistan and Myanmar – are affected by rising food insecurity, with “the consumption of nutritious food” decreasing in poor countries.

Task force

The email, seen by Politico, includes a summary of a meeting led by UN officials on 28 July, which states that a special food security task force “continues to focus on ... the high costs of imports affecting the balance of payments in over 60 countries.”

Other issues identified in the leaked document include food security challenges stemming from exchange rate devaluation and governments struggling to afford “essential imports”.

Close to default

Around 12 governments are said to be close to default on debt repayments with many seeking opportunities for debt relief, reports the Week.

Politico also reports that the rising cost of fertiliser following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to further UN warnings, with vulnerable countries grappling with 300% increases in prices.

Prices were high before the Ukraine war, but the invasion has exacerbated the problem because Russia is the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilisers, the second largest supplier of potassium and the third largest exporter of phosphorus fertilisers. 

Food price index

High input prices for farmers will feed through into higher food costs for consumers. The UN food-price index is 23% higher than a year ago, reports Business Insider.

However, as covered by the IOE&IT Daily Update, this index fell for the month of July after news of Ukraine and Russia’s agreement on allowing grain shipments out of Ukrainian ports.

UK food worries

Food bosses in the UK have been put on alert to determine how food supply chains would be affected in the event of major power shortages.

DEFRA is in talks with industry figures to prepare for a “worst case scenario” as the sector warns that milk and meat supplies could come under threat if Britain is hit by energy blackouts this winter, reports the Telegraph.

Ian Wright, co-chair of the Food and Drink Sector Council, said: “It all depends on the nature of the blackouts but some rely on 24-hour production and can’t just stop and start the process.”

Although it is preparing for the possibility of blackouts, DEFRA said that it does not expect energy blackouts this winter.

Water shortages

National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters has pointed to farmers’ concerns about water shortages affecting crops.

“Right now we just don’t have enough water for our potatoes, carrots, and lettuces. And who knows what else if these dry conditions carry on,” she told the Guardian.

DEFRA has said that it will “continue to work closely with water companies and the Environment Agency to protect public supplies, the environment and critical sectors that depend on water, including farmers,” reports sustainability website Edie.

It is also seeking to reassure businesses that each region of the UK has a credible drought plan already in place.