Jun 24, 2022 - World

UN chief warns worsening food shortages could lead to global "catastrophe"

antonio guterres

Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Worsening food shortages around the world could lead to a "catastrophe," UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned at a ministerial conference for food security on Friday.

Driving the news: The world is facing an "unprecedented global hunger crisis," Guterres said, adding that the war in Ukraine has exacerbated "problems that have been brewing for years: climate disruption; the COVID-19 pandemic; the deeply unequal recovery."

  • The number of severely food insecure people worldwide has more than doubled in the past two years to 276 million, Guterres said, citing the World Food Programme.
  • The UN has previously warned that the war in Ukraine could lead to a hunger crisis, as much of the world relies on Ukraine for wheat. Russia and Ukraine account for 30% of the world's wheat trade, per the World Food Programme.

What they're saying: "This year's food access issues could become next year's global food shortage," Guterres warned.

  • He said there was "a real risk" that multiple famines would be declared this year, and that 2023 "could be even worse."
  • Fertilizer prices have risen by more than 50% and that energy prices have risen by more than two-thirds, which has put pressure on farmers across Asia, Africa and the Americas, Guterres added.
  • The secretary-general said that the UN is in talks "aiming to achieve a package deal that will enable Ukraine to export food, not only by land but through the Black Sea, and will bring Russian food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions."

The bottom line: "No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe," Guterres said.

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