G20 finance leaders focus on food crisis

Group of 20 (G20) finance ministers and central bank governors started official meetings in Indonesia’s Bali island on Friday, with discussions focusing on rising economic pressures from soaring inflation as well as a growing global food shortage crisis.

Food insecurity is one of the top issues on the agenda at the G20 meetings, where host Indonesia has been trying to find common ground in a group rattled by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

U.S. Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen arrives for a meeting for the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting in Nusa Dua, on Indonesia resort island of Bali, on July 15, 2022. /CFP

U.S. Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen arrives for a meeting for the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting in Nusa Dua, on Indonesia resort island of Bali, on July 15, 2022. /CFP

Speaking at the meetings, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said G20 countries need to target fiscal support measures to help those most in need, rather than adopting costly and regressive blanket subsidies.

She also called on G20 members to boost their spending to address existing food security challenges linked to ongoing conflict, climate change, and economic shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic that had grown worse due to the increases in food, fertilizer and fuel prices.

“We must take action to address the short-term food insecurity crisis and, equally importantly, the longer-term drivers of food insecurity, including the nexus with climate change,” she said. “The speed and wisdom of our decisions now will make the difference on whether we get the current crisis under control.”

Indonesia’s Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati (C) delivers a speech during the opening of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, on July 15, 2022. /CFP

Indonesia’s Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati (C) delivers a speech during the opening of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, on July 15, 2022. /CFP

Meanwhile, Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati called for a joint forum involving G20 finance and agriculture ministries to come up with concrete actions to tackle growing food insecurity and a looming fertilizer supply crisis.

Sri Mulyani said the world was facing alarming global hunger due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, export restrictions and the lingering effect of the pandemic. The risk of a fertilizer supply crisis could exacerbate the food crisis even into 2023 and beyond, she said.

During the discussions, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization, said there was a risk food supply may be diverted away from poorer countries to richer ones, “repeating the experiences with COVID-19 vaccines”.

(With input from Reuters)