WB chief warns food insecurity crisis could last into next year

World Bank President David Malpass attends a meeting with the Sudanese prime minister (not in frame) in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Sept 30, 2021. (ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

WASHINGTON – The Russia-Ukraine conflict has pushed up food prices and hit the poorest the hardest, World Bank Group President David Malpass said Wednesday, warning that the food insecurity crisis will last for months and probably into next year.

"Its consequences are putting stress on poor people around the world," Malpass said at a virtual press conference during the 2022 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.

He noted that food prices are up already 37 percent year over year, and are going up more than Consumer Price Index, which is "significant" because it measures how much it hits the poor, who have to spend more on food in their daily budget.

The food problem is severe… the prices crowd out the poorest, so it hits people in poor countries and especially in rural areas the hardest … There's also the tendency to move toward less nutritious food, if other food is not available in the diet.

David Malpass, World Bank Group President

The shortages of food, energy and fertilizer – which are critical for the crop cycle, are "creating a food insecurity crisis that will last at least months and probably into next year," said Malpass.

"The food problem is severe… the prices crowd out the poorest, so it hits people in poor countries and especially in rural areas the hardest," the World Bank chief said in response to a question from Xinhua.

"There's also the tendency to move toward less nutritious food, if other food is not available in the diet," he continued.

On a positive note, he said, "we're entering this cycle of food insecurity with large global stockpiles, so as those are released, I think there can be progress," adding that it's important to start early.

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Malpass noted there was "substantial" discussion on food security at the Spring Meetings on Tuesday, though he doesn't expect an international agreement on the issue.

"What I hope and expect is that many countries will step forward with individual solutions to alleviate the food crisis and the fertilizer crisis," he said.

At the press conference, the World Bank chief also noted that the multilateral lender expects to commit $170 billion of financing over the next 15 months in the wake of the crises, which would be the largest set of commitments by the organization ever.

World Bank Group President David Malpass also urged policymakers to take steps to improve capital allocation of global resources, as the current capital allocation leads to deep and rising inequality

On vaccines, the World Bank will have committed 11 billion dollars in vaccination programs in 81 countries by the end of June, according to Malpass.

Malpass also urged policymakers to take steps to improve capital allocation of global resources, as the current capital allocation leads to deep and rising inequality.

"That means more countries falling further behind, not making advancements, and not having the investment that is needed," the World Bank chief said.

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"Some of that owes to the macro policies of the advanced economies. They've been borrowing very heavily from the global capital markets, which leaves less for other countries," he said. "That can be improved."