UN urges WTO not to impose restrictions on food exports amid crisis

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The war in Ukraine is increasing the risk of starvation for tens of millions of people, the UN human rights chief has said.

Geneva:

The United Nations on Monday pleaded with world trade ministers meeting at the WTO not to impose restrictions on the export of foodstuffs for humanitarian purposes, amid a food security crisis.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet and her trade and development chief Rebeca Grynspan said Russia’s war in Ukraine was increasing the risk of hunger and starvation for dozens of people. million people who are already food insecure or approaching food insecurity.

Countries meeting at the World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Geneva this week are trying to reach a consensus position on food security.

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Concerned about less developed countries, developing countries that are net food importers and those that depend on the United Nations World Food Programme, the two UN chiefs said that in 2020, African countries imported around 80% of their food and 92% of their grain from outside the continent.

They urged WTO members to “refrain from imposing export restrictions on essential foodstuffs procured by LDCs and NFIDCs as well as those procured by WFP for non-commercial humanitarian purposes” .

Russia’s invasion has heightened concerns for global food security, as Ukraine’s Black Sea ports are blocked, preventing the country from exporting its products.

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Prior to the February invasion, Ukraine was the world’s fourth largest supplier of wheat and corn.

– India worries –

India capped sugar exports to protect its own supplies and dampen inflation, days after its ban on wheat shipments boosted world prices.

Immediately after the May 25 sugar announcement, WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala urged countries not to block or restrict exports of staple foods given tensions in global food markets .

A decision on food security and export restrictions is one of the key outcomes expected from the WTO ministerial conference, which opened on Sunday and runs until Wednesday.

A second text aims to ban export restrictions on WFP purchases, but India and Tanzania oppose it.

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UN leaders said they would work with WTO members to tackle anti-competitive and unfair trade practices.

“Hoarding, overstocking of food staples and associated speculation, especially during global food shortages, undermine the enjoyment of the right to food and undermine efforts to achieve food security for all “, they said.

EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis met Indian Trade and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday for talks at the WTO.

“We need all members to show the same level of ambition and spirit of compromise to make this WTO ministerial meeting a success,” the EU executive vice-president said afterwards.

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