Food crises: for an effective and inclusive response to the consequences of the war in Ukraine


By aggressing Ukraine, Russia has severely jeopardized the food security of millions of people. The impact of this war stretches well beyond the Ukrainian borders – the whole world is affected by the rising costs of agricultural goods. But it is even harder for those living in several developing countries, which were already facing serious food insecurity and malnutrition.

A worrying situation, even before the war in Ukraine

Globally, some 800 million people are hungry according to the most recent estimates available. At the end of 2021, 193 million people were facing a food crisis in 53 countries and territories.
Before the Ukrainian crisis, several countries were already in a very precarious situation due to security, economic and climate-related fragilities, and particularly the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to over 120 million people suffering from hunger in the world.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine has already had and will continue to have destabilizing consequences on food security because of:

  • Ukraine and Russia’s importance in global agricultural and food trade (combined they were the source of approximately 30% of soft wheat and 13% of corn exports in the world in 2021, according to the FAO);
  • Russian naval forces blocking Ukrainian ports and the ongoing offensive in the rest of the country, which have reduced Ukraine’s export capacities by 90%;
  • The impact of the war on Ukrainian production
    ° directly from the destruction of equipment and storage and transport infrastructure;
    ° indirectly mainly due to the shortage of fuel, but also fertilizer, pesticides and seeds, and manual labour.

This is extremely detrimental to some countries in Africa and the Near and Middle East which are greatly dependent on agricultural exports such as grains, vegetable oils and fertilizers from Russia and/or Ukraine. All countries have experienced an upheaval in global supply chains.
Global food insecurity has gotten much worse because of all of these factors, after already having worsened considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic.

France and its European partners are mobilized
The European Commission has adopted an initial humanitarian budget of €1.5 billion for 2022, with almost €554 million allocated to sub-Saharan Africa, in response to food and nutritional needs and other basic needs of vulnerable populations in countries affected by conflict.
This European commitment will be continued and strengthened, with the support of France, as it holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU. The European Commission also announced that €225 million had been earmarked to support the resilience of its southern neighbours (Recovery and Resilience Facility).

Solidarity initiatives with multilateral action

France is convinced that the response to food crises must be swift, supportive and multilateral if it is to be effective. On 24 March, France, under its Presidency of the Council of the European Union, presented the FARM initiative for food security in the most vulnerable countries. France works with several multilateral forums to roll out its initiatives:

World Food Programme (WFP)

L’aide française en matière de sécurité alimentaire a pour objectif notamment de renforcer l’action des organisations internationales, en premier lieu le Programme alimentaire mondial.

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)

France’s support also involves swift mobilization of the FAO:

o In April 2022, around 40 Member States, including the 27 EU countries, called for a special session of the FAO Council. This meeting resulted in the adoption of a decision co-sponsored by 80 Member States, calling the FAO to:

  • closely monitor the implications of the war on global food security;
  • present short-, medium- and long-term plans to address these challenges.

o The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs spoke at the FAO Regional Conference for Europe in May 2022. He called for a food solidarity response to support the Ukrainian agricultural sector and the countries most affected by the consequences of the war. At the same conference, a large majority adopted a decision which strongly condemned Russia and laid out their specific expectations from the FAO.

In the framework of the G7 and the United Nations

France is convinced that an operational roadmap is beneficial to boost our impact and ensure the accountability of our actions. This is our objective with FARM – an initiative that we would like to roll out with our regional partners, throughout Africa in particular, to address locally identified needs. The efforts undertaken by the German Presidency of the G7 with the launch of the Global Alliance for Food Security (GAFS) and the United States’ Call to Action are essential tools for rallying all willing partners around our objectives, including those from the private sector.

These actions do not take away from the fact that we need to respond in an operational manner to the immediate requirements of Ukrainian farmers concerning non-road diesel, fertilizers, pesticides and seeds, which are all essential to future agricultural work, especially spring sowing and future harvests.
In particular, France is donating €2 million to an FAO project which specifically aims to support the Ukrainian agricultural sector, weakened by the war. This is a very short-term concern, when the FAO estimates that the next wheat harvest in Ukraine could be 28% lower than last year.

The FARM initiative (Food & Agriculture Resilience Mission)

On 24 March, France, under its Presidency of the Council of the European Union, presented the FARM initiative for food security in the most vulnerable countries.

France has suggested that the FARM initiative be structured on three pillars, with the support of international organizations (including World Trade Organization (WTO), World Food Programme (WFP) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)) which are working hard to implement this roadmap:

1. A trade pillar to ease tensions on the agricultural markets, comprising:

  • an emergency plan to release stocks in the event of crisis, to avoid shortages and contain price rises;
  • a multilateral commitment to not enforce export restrictions on agricultural commodities;
  • transparent monitoring of obstacles to trade of agricultural produce, and market prices.

2. A solidarity pillar to prepare, starting in summer 2022, for the first effects of the war in Ukraine, and a potentially sustainable decrease in exports from Ukraine, which many African and Middle Eastern countries rely on, as does the WFP for its operations.
France is working closely with the WFP to draw up a solidarity mechanism that could act as a “buffer” if the crisis worsens and would help provide the WFP and/or the most fragile countries with supplies for less than the market price.

3. A pillar to develop production in the worst affected countries
IFAD has extensive experience in the field. It has already made a very concrete proposal to:

  • increase investments in sustainable and resilient food production systems;
  • launch substantive work on food trends to reduce dependence on exports;
  • reinforce the integration of local and regional markets;
  • combat food loss and waste.
    The immediate goal is to rally interested donors together behind IFAD’s coordination role so it can start work on the operational and financial elements.

These three pillars must be rolled out with regional partners, particularly those in Africa, to best respond to locally-identified needs.

In line with the commitments made at the last European Union-African Union Summit, the aim is to work with African partners to develop key sectors, with projects such as the plant protein initiative and the accelerated implementation of the Great Green Wall. These efforts could be reflected in a joint EU-AU plan for the third pillar of the FARM to highlight the objectives which are central to the AU’s food and agricultural strategy.

Updated in May 2022