G7 agriculture ministers pledge to hold markets

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G7 agriculture ministers signed a joint statement pledging to keep food markets open and to support food supplies in Ukraine at a special meeting on Friday (March 11th), according to Euractiv.

The meeting was convened by Germany, the current holder of the G7 presidency, to discuss measures to ensure global food security, as well as food supplies in Ukraine, in the face of Russia’s continued attack on the country.

“The G7 declares its full solidarity with Ukraine – its support is our top priority,” German Minister Cem Özdemir said after the meeting.

In addition to supporting Ukraine in food supplies, ministers agreed to work to stabilize international food markets and avoid restrictions on food exports, he said.

The G7 Agriculture Ministers of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, Italy and Japan were joined by Roman Leshchenko, the Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture and Food, as a special guest, as well as EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski and representatives of international organizations.

Ukraine’s food supply is systematically targeted

Inside Ukraine, agricultural production and food supplies were hampered by Russia’s war against the country. This prompted Ukraine to stop exports of key foodstuffs, such as wheat or sunflower oil, earlier this week to protect its domestic supply.

“Every day we receive reports of new atrocities from Putin, […] which systematically targets the civilian population, but also the food supply of the people of Ukraine, ”said Özdemir, citing attacks on granaries, food factories and transport infrastructure as examples.

In their statement, the seven countries expressed solidarity with Ukraine and pledged to “provide national, bilateral and international support to help facilitate harvests in Ukraine and to ensure the ability of Ukrainian farmers to feed their people.” .

The statement added that the G7 will “remain committed to doing what is necessary to prevent and respond to a food crisis”, providing humanitarian aid and “being prepared to address any disruptions”.

Özdemir also announced that he would meet again bilaterally with the Ukrainian minister later that day. Meanwhile, Commissioner Wojciechowski also offered a bilateral appeal to Leshchenko in Ukraine “at every opportunity” to discuss what the EU could do to help Ukrainian farmers on the ground.

“The EU will continue to work with the Ukrainian authorities, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to provide financial and humanitarian assistance to address food shortages,” Wojciechowski said, adding that this “must be our priority.”

At the same time, as both Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of products such as wheat and sunflower oil, it is expected that the war will also have significant ramifications for global food security.

Not only did the conflict “have a serious impact on Ukraine and its people,” but it could also “have a serious impact on the food security of millions of people around the world,” said Qu Dongyu, the organization’s director general. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said during the meeting.

Keeping international markets open

In a recent press release, the FAO estimates that many countries that were already facing the negative effects of high international prices for food and fertilizers before the conflict are “highly dependent on imported food and fertilizers” and rely on Ukrainian and Russian supplies for to meet their consumption needs.

In addition to expressing “deep concern” over the issue and pledging to work closely together to protect global food security, the seven ministers also reaffirmed the importance of keeping the flow of goods open across borders. food, inputs and seasonal labor.

“We urge all countries to keep their food and agricultural markets open and to protect themselves against any unwarranted measures on their exports,” the statement said, adding that ministers “will not tolerate artificially inflated prices that could reduce food availability and agricultural products ”.

Some countries, including Hungary and Bulgaria, had recently taken the controversial decision to stop grain exports.

Meanwhile, the ministers’ statement also includes a reference to supporting food security “in line with climate and environmental commitments and the sustainable development agenda”.

Whether environmental goals for the food sector should be stopped or relaxed in the current circumstances in order to focus on food security has been a hotly debated topic on the EU stage in recent weeks.

Although there were initially signs that the Commission might consider this option, it was strongly rejected by the EU executive.