U.S. invites India to ministerial meeting on averting food crisis

Arul Louis/IANS-

India has been invited to a ministerial meeting on global food security convened by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to respond to the global crisis sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, said Cindy McCain (in picture), Washington’s Permanent Representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The meeting of foreign ministers May 18 will “review the urgent humanitarian needs and identify steps to build resilience for the future”, she told reporters in a Zoom news conference Tuesday.

“The U.S. cooperates with all grain-producing countries and, of course, our purpose is to alleviate the shortage that’s going to happen” because of the Ukraine conflict, McCain said.

“This upcoming food security ministerial in New York is a prime opportunity to talk about the immediate solutions and long-term strategies which are really important,” she added.

Because the world is facing the “most serious food crisis in over 70 years, the worst since World War II”, the U.S. has called for two ‘Days of Action’ on the crisis “to rally the world to take steps to bolster food supply chains and strengthen food resilience”, she said.

The ministerial meeting will be followed by a U.N. Security Council debate on ‘Conflict and Food Security’ the following day.

McCain said Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, the fifth-largest exporter of wheat and second-largest exporter of sunflower oil, has triggered a far-reaching humanitarian crisis for countries that were already vulnerable.

It will have long-term effects because “Putin has upended spring planting, blocked ports, mined fields, destroyed infrastructure, and ultimately thrown our global food systems into chaos”, she said.

Leaders of India, which has a wheat stockpile estimated at about 100 million tonnes, and the U.S. last month discussed cooperation to avert a global food crisis.

Making some of this wheat available to the rest of the world came up at the virtual summit between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden as well as in the 2+2 ministerial meeting of India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin III and Secretary of State Blinken.

“Our countries are working together to try to bring more food to world markets, as well as to the World Food Program,” Blinken had said after their meeting.