Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
76. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the measures the international community, including Ireland, is taking to address the issue of impending food shortages as a consequence of the war in Ukraine, particularly as it affects countries in the global south; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23372/22]
What action is Ireland and the international community taking to address what will, unfortunately, be impending food shortages due to the illegal invasion of Ukraine, given the supply of wheat and grains to the international community, particularly the global south? That also includes Russia, which is also a major supplier. There are major fears and concerns that this will kick-start serious challenges for the developing world.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has had a devastating impact on Ukraine and the Ukrainians. With both countries together producing 12% of the world's traded calories, the invasion has also driven global food, fuel and fertiliser prices to record highs. This has particularly affected some of the most vulnerable countries in the world, which are reliant on food and fertiliser imports.
The World Food Programme, which Ireland supports, is particularly exposed to increased cereal prices and transport costs, making it much more expensive to support the additional 47 million people likely to be on the brink of famine resulting from the conflict.
Building on Irish Aid's long-standing work to address hunger, my Department is working closely with international partners to help address the situation. The International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, has launched a crisis response initiative to help poor farmers withstand increased market turbulence and food prices. Ireland provides more than €4 million annually to IFAD. As a member of its executive board, we have been involved in steering this work.
At the UN Security Council, Ireland is the penholder on the conflict and hunger file. Last month we hosted a high-profile meeting in New York to shine a light directly on the emerging food security crisis.
As the situation evolves, my Department will closely monitor the situation. Ireland already spends €14 million per year on social protection programmes, which can be rapidly scaled up as necessary. At the Nutrition for Growth Summit in December, Ireland pledged €800 million to nutrition work over the five years to 2026, including a three-year strategic partnership with the World Food Programme worth €75 million. In 2020 Ireland spent approximately €193 million on programmes that addressed hunger.
I thank the Minister of State for his response. Unfortunately, the conflict in Ukraine is making a dire situation even worse for tens of millions of people who have already been plunged into extreme poverty as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, armed conflicts, climate shock and economic turmoil in different regions of the globe. Not only has the war disrupted shipping within the Black Sea, which has had a huge impact on the artery for grains and other commodities, but it has impacted exports from Russia and Ukraine to markets in Africa. It has also had a huge impact on Afghanistan, which is on the brink of famine, given the serious challenges there, including drought, the pandemic and the freeze on the national assets. Unfortunately, I think some of the targets and funding commitments made prior to the war will not be sufficient, given the scale of the challenges we face. The Minister of State said Ireland is a penholder. What measures will be taken now?
In a number of areas, we continue our commitment to address directly things such as the price impacts. The Department is encouraging our international partners to adjust programmes rapidly in response to the crisis. It is also important that the international response focuses on the need to prevent a further deterioration of food security. As the Deputy and I both acknowledged, it is expected that the impacts will be felt in areas such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Afghanistan. Irish embassies in those countries have worked closely to monitor the food security situation and the associated risk of conflict. My officials will continue to work with international partners to encourage the diversification of food supply for countries that rely directly on imports from Ukraine and the Russian Federation. We will also explore opportunities to support the scale-up of national social protection programmes to help vulnerable food consumers. In the longer term, we will continue to work with our partners. The key is that the World Food Programme itself is very heavily reliant on directly buying from both Russia and Ukraine.
I welcome the Minister of State's response. As he will be well aware, the war has raised fuel prices, which have pushed up the cost of transporting food to some of the poorest parts of the world. Some 45 of the world's poorest countries depend on Ukraine and Russia for a third of their grain supply. The Minister of State referred to the World Food Programme. Prior to the war, it faced a massive funding shortfall that forced it to cut rations in 17 African countries, including Zimbabwe, Chad, South Sudan and Ethiopia. The gap has widened as donors turn their attention to the conflict in Europe. Every day I turn on the radio and listen to the news, I hear of more billions being given to Ukraine to fund its defence against the war. Absolutely, Ukraine has to be defended, but there is a fallout from this and, unfortunately, I do not see similar announcements made in terms of commitments and donations to ensure that the world does not face into a serious humanitarian crisis.
We continue to highlight the importance of the World Food Programme and support for it. It issued a terrifying warning, I believe, that an additional 47 million people could fall into the grip of acute hunger in 2022. That is from a pre-war baseline of 276 million people. That means that up to 323 million people could become acutely food-insecure in 2022. That is increasing for men, women, boys and girls. Many of Ireland's international humanitarian partners purchase their grain from Ukraine. The impact of price increases means that the World Food Programme, realistically, will be able to reach fewer people with lifesaving assistance within existing resources. Global humanitarian responses will become more expensive, or else we will reach fewer people, at a time when global insecurity and food hunger have been increasing. The United Nations Secretary-General has said the Russian invasion of Ukraine is holding a sword of Damocles over the global economy, especially for poorer and developing countries. Ireland shares those concerns. In December 2021 Ireland signed a three-year strategic partnership with the World Food Programme. That agreement commits Ireland to the provision of €75 million for the period up to 2024.