U.S. Finance Minister Janet Yellen has called on the G20 economies to take swift action to address a short-term food insecurity crisis exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine and to avoid market-distorting export restrictions and stockpiling.
Speaking at a meeting of G20 finance officials in Indonesia, Yellen said countries should target fiscal support measures to help those most in need, rather than adopting expensive and regressive general subsidies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “used food as a weapon of war,” she said, citing “the destruction of agricultural facilities, the theft of grain and agricultural equipment and the effective blockade of Black Sea ports.”
Yellen said poor households in the poorest countries were the most directly affected, slowing development and undermining efforts to eradicate poverty.
“We need to take steps to address the short-term food insecurity crisis and, just as importantly, the long-term drivers of food insecurity, including the context of climate change,” she said. “The speed and wisdom of our decisions now will make the difference in whether we get the current crisis under control.”
Yellen said the G20 countries should take advantage of existing food security and agricultural architecture and insist that the multilateral development banks, the Rome-based food agencies and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) and others respond more urgently.
“We do not need new institutions. We need robust coordination, knowledge sharing, research and development, funding and action,” she said, praising the creation of the Global Alliance for Food Security as a useful step.