Governments Tighten Grip on Global Food Stocks, Sending Prices Higher

In a speech last week, Janet L. Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury, said the pandemic and war have revealed that American supply chains, while efficient, are neither secure nor resilient. active. While warning of “a completely protectionist path,” she said the United States should work to reorient its trading relationships toward a large group of “reliable partners,” even when that means slightly higher costs for businesses and consumers.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director general of the World Trade Organization, said in a statement on Wednesday that the war added “legitimate” to questions of economic interdependence. But she urged countries not to draw wrong conclusions about the global trading system, saying it has helped spur global growth and provide countries with vital goods even in the world. pandemic period.

“While it is true that global supply chains can be prone to disruption, trade is also a source of resilience,” she said.

The WTO has argued against export bans since the early days of the pandemic, when countries including the United States began lifting restrictions on exports of masks and medical goods and only phased them out gradually.

Now, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a similar wave of food-focused bans. “It was like déjà vu all over again,” Mr. Evenett said.

Protectionist measures have been applied from country to country in a way that is especially evident when it comes to wheat. Russia and Ukraine export more than a quarter of the world’s wheat, feed billions of people in the form of bread, pasta and packaged foods.

Mr. Evenett said the current wave of trade barriers to wheat had begun as the main players of the war, Russia and Belarus, restrained exports. Countries along the main trade route for Ukrainian wheat, including Moldova, Serbia and Hungary, then began restricting their wheat exports. Finally, large importers with food security concerns, such as Lebanon, Algeria and Egypt, have introduced their own bans.

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