The Honorable Samantha Marshall of Antigua and Barbuda, Chair of the OECS Council of Ministers: Agriculture, in acknowledging the war in Ukraine will adversely impact food availability and prices in the region, captured the circumstances under which the meeting was held by referencing Arif Husain, Chief Economist at the UN World Food Programme (WFP), who spoke on the devasting consequences of the Russian invasion on Ukraine, and its anticipated impact on grain and oil prices.
Hon. Marshall stated that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Food Price Index reached 140.7 points in February 2022 exceeding the record set in February 2011, and the Cereal Price Index reached 144.8 points,14.8 percent higher than a year ago. The Minister further noted that the impact of the war in Ukraine which began two weeks ago, has not worked its way into the global Food Price Index calculations.
To provide further context to the discussions, following important facts concerning food supply from the impacted region by the FAO were noted.
• Ukraine accounts for 10% of global wheat supply
• Ukraine will miss the May 2022 wheat planting season
• Russia is the world’s largest wheat exporter accounting for 17% of global supply
• Russia is the world’s second largest supplier of sunflower seed; and
• The Black Sea region accounts for 12% of global food calories intake.
In light of these realities, the general sentiment was that a prolonged war in Ukraine will only exacerbate the global food security situation by creating disruptions in key global food markets.
The OECS region has high food import dependency ratio ranging from 55% to 95%, with four Member States recording more than 80%. It was noted during discussions that local agriculture production is insufficient both in volume and consistency to buffer the expected price increase and shortages in the imported food supply. The prediction, therefore, is that there will be increases in the price and availability of commodities such as flour and sunflower oil. The Ministers further concluded that general price increases in imports are expected as a direct result of the increasing price of crude oil and the expected knock-on effect with regard to the cost of transportation globally.
The Ministers received a detailed presentation from Mr. Jai Ramersad, Trade and Agricultural expert, on the context and implications of the Ukraine war and further engaged the Ministers and other representatives on the possible joint mitigative actions. Meeting officials (including from Martinique) welcomed and supported the need for urgent discourse on the matter.
The Meeting agreed on a framework of urgent collaborative action and the intention to appraise and inform the public in the region.
Hon. Ministers and Officials in attendance included:
Hon. Samantha Marshall - Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, Antigua and Barbuda
Hon. Fidel Grant - Minister of Blue & Green Economy, Agriculture and National Food Security, Commonwealth of Dominica
Hon. Peter David - Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Grenada
Hon. Alexis Jeffers - Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Marine Resources, St. Kitts and Nevis
Hon. Alfred Prospere - Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development, St. Lucia
Hon. Saboto Ceasar - Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour, St. Vincent and the Grenadines