Yellen to push institutions to scale up response to war-fueled food security crisis

·2-min read
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on "the State of the International Financial System,” on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Andrea Shalal and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will convene a high-level panel on Tuesday to discuss the global response to an ongoing food security crisis exacerbated by Russia's war against Ukraine, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The meeting will include the heads of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, as well as ministers representing the G7 and G20 countries and technical experts from international financial institutions, it said on Monday.

Treasury officials aim to ensure that international financial institutions are sharing knowledge about the key drivers of rising food insecurity, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and push them to step up the scale and urgency of their response, a senior Treasury official said.

"Secretary Yellen is deeply concerned about impacts that Russia’s reckless war are having on the global economy, including the risk of rising food insecurity in emerging markets and developing countries around the world," a second senior Treasury official said.

Russia says it is engaged in a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

The crisis was hitting emerging market and developing countries that were still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic particularly hard, the official noted.

A third senior Treasury official said Treasury had no specific aid target in mind for the meeting, noting that officials were still analyzing the extent of the problem.

Yellen is expected to warn against export bans, drawing on lessons from the last big world food crisis in 2008, the official said, while ensuring efforts to boost food production in Africa and other regions highly dependent on imports.

Treasury officials will also call for continued research and innovation to ensure that agricultural production is adapted to climate change factors such as heat and drought.

Yellen first announced plans for the meeting last week, noting that over 275 million people worldwide were facing acute food insecurity.

Treasury officials expect to release an action plan after the event to help structure the urgently needed global response, one of the officials said.

The World Bank, IMF, UN World Food Program and World Trade Organization have also called for urgent, coordinated action on food security, and appealed to countries to avoid banning food or fertilizer exports.

They said the crisis was compounded by a sharp increase in the cost of natural gas, a key ingredient of nitrogenous fertilizer, which could threaten food production in many countries.

Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control this week will reiterate its commitment to allow the free flow of agricultural goods, including humanitarian aid to the Russian people, despite sweeping sanctions imposed on Russia, a senior official said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and David Lawder; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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