War in Ukraine: WTO chief warns of food riots in poor countriestext_fields
The ongoing war in Ukraine could have a telling effect on rocketing food prices giving rise to food riots in poor countries, according to the World Trade Organisation.
In a interview with the Guardian, WTO's head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned food-producing nations against hoarding.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala drew attention to not committing a repeat of the Covid pandemic, referring to rich countries storing up bulk of vaccines.
The WTO director general stressed how situation in Ukraine is close to home for many African countries that depend on Black Sea region for food supplies.
Speaking about the worrying situation she said the impact on food prices and hunger could be substantial this year and the next. Food and energy are vital for poor people all over the world, according to her.
The former Nigerian finance minister said 35 African countries depend on food from the Black Sea region, with Russia and Ukraine responsible for 24% of global supplies of wheat.
Completing one year in office, Okonjo-Iweala's appointment as the head of WTO was to streamline an institution beset by disputes over liberalizing trade, according to the report.
Okonjo-Iweala, who was strongly critical of 'vaccine apartheid", asked WTO member states to resist protecting their own food stocks.
The WTO estimates 40% of the increase in global wheat prices during the food crisis of a decade ago was the result of hoarding, the report said.
Only 12 countries including El Salvador, Cambodia and Egypt have trade restrictions on food in place.
She asked nations to learn from countries that do positive things as regards food supplies.
The war according to her could disrupt Ukraine's planting season, and it would be more so from limited supplies of fertiliser.
Asking WTO members not to compound the crisis, she worried about the repeat of food riots as it happened in 2000s.
She also said throwing Russia out of WTO would be complicated requiring approval of 75 per cent of members.