A combine deposits harvested wheat in a tractor trolley at a field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, on March 16, 2022. Image Credit: REUTERS

Geneva: The European Union, the United States and more than two dozen other countries vowed Friday to shore up global food security in a joint statement to the World Trade Organization.

Voicing alarm at the “global effects on food security” triggered by the Ukraine war, they stressed “the urgency and importance of maintaining open and predictable agricultural markets and trade”.

That would “ensure the continued flow of food, as well as products, services and inputs essential for agricultural and food production and supply chains”, they added.

“We also recognise the importance of exercising restraint in excessive stockpiling and hoarding of agricultural products affected by this crisis that are traditionally exported,” they said in the statement, which was due to be circulated to all WTO member states later Friday.

The countries pledged to work together “to help ensure that sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious food continues to be available and accessible at all times to all people”.

They also vowed to keep their food and agriculture markets “open, predictable and transparent by not imposing unjustified trade restrictive measures on agricultural and agri-food products or key agricultural production inputs.”

They warned that applying such measures, especially “unjustified export prohibitions and restrictions on agricultural and agri-food products, increases uncertainty and can result in a spiral of price increases and further restrictions”.

They said any measures introduced by countries to mitigate food security impacts should be “as least-distortive as possible” and should follow WTO rules to “allow markets and the flow of food to operate as efficiently as possible”.

And they stressed that no export bans or restrictions should be imposed on food purchased by the UN’s World Food Programme for humanitarian purposes.

The United Nations has warned that Russia’s attack of Ukraine since February 24 and economic sanctions on Moscow have disrupted global food supplies, worsening an already deepening food security crisis in many countries.

Russia and Ukraine are top exporters of wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower oil, while Russia is the world’s top supplier of key fertilisers and gas.