A food crisis is taking shape in the country, the region and the world and the main reason invoked is the war waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine. The two states are the main suppliers of grain in the world. Representatives of the agricultural sector consider that besides objective factors, the situation in the food security sector is influenced by subjective factors as well, including insufficient measures on the part of the authorities. For their part, the authorities assure that they are looking for solutions to overcome the existing problems. The issue was developed by the experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Facets of food crisis in the Republic of Moldova and the world”.
According to Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, the “food crisis” is a situation when the provision of the population with vital food products, in accordance with the physiological norms, is under threat all over the country or in parts of it. In such a situation, the authorities should take special measures and provide assistance. “Famine” is the severe shortage of calories that can lead to different forms of malnutrition and can have serious consequences for the health and wellbeing of people. “So, in the case of food crises, the people can have access to food for satisfying their energy needs, but are not sure that this situation can be kept. This reveals the necessity of taking measures against food crises,” started the expert.
He noted that among the Moldovan institutions responsible for food security are the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry, the Ministry of Economy and the National Food Safety Agency. For 11 years, the country has had a food security strategy envisioning that the state authorities will fully and efficiently ensure the management of strategic food resources and will pursue such policies, etc. “Also, internal food security is one of the priorities of the development of the agrifood sector and action is taken based on the principle “from safe food products to a healthy food regime”. At international level, there is the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN whose task is to guarantee, together with the governments of the UN member states, the food security of the people and not to allow famine.
As to consumer prices, Igor Boțan said it is important to use the methodology of the National Bureau of Statistics. The consumer price index measures the general tendency of the evolution of prices. “Everything that the consumer buys has a price and this price can vary in time and the consumer price index measures these changes. This is primarily related to the consumer basket and inflation,” explained the expert.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Viorel Gherciu said the food crisis was caused by the war in Ukraine that affects not only the Ukrainian population, but has a global impact. The delivery of agrifood products is one of the most serious issues as Ukraine and Russia are the main suppliers of in the world. The disruption in the chains that supplied a large part of the global population with food products has caused this crisis.
“The crisis is due to the fact that over 20 million tonnes of grain that are now in storehouses in Ukraine cannot be exported to end users. The Republic of Moldova, being situated in the immediate vicinity of Ukraine, is directly affected by the consequences of this war, including in the agricultural sector. The war affected all the processes, starting from the supply of the necessary inputs for ensuring efficient production and the profitability of the sector and ending with the sale of products or their export,” stated the minister.
Viorel Gherciu noted that the agricultural sector is affected not only from this viewpoint. “Major obstacles are met in the process of exporting own products to other markets, including through the western part of the country, as the flow of goods from Ukraine goes primarily through the Republic of Moldova. In such circumstances, it is important to identify solutions to optimize the transit of goods from Ukraine via the Republic of Moldova and to ensure the national producers’ free access to other markets,” he noted.
The executive director of the Association “Force of Farmers” Alexandru Slusari said that famine is not possible in Moldova in the 21 century when there is a broad globalization process and when the country’s economy is mostly agro-industrial. But it should be clear that the food crisis does not represent only the shortage of food, but refers also to the accessibility of products and to prices. The Republic of Moldova is yet rather vulnerable in such a situation even if it has good farming traditions.
According to Alexandru Slusari, the available volumes of food products ensure security as the products that were earlier imported from Ukraine and Russia were substituted. It is yet bad that this shortage wasn’t covered with national products. “At the moment, from quantitative viewpoint, the food crisis is not felt. I think we will not ultimately witness a shortage of products, but the prices will rise. If we analyze the accessibility of products in the case of persons with low incomes, primarily pensioners, we can presume that a part of them will be affected as they will be unable to afford bare essentials,” stated the expert.
He considers the Moldovan authorities do not apply instruments to control prices and to de-monopolize the economy and this is the biggest problem. “For these reasons, we have the highest rate of inflation in Europe and the second highest global inflation after Turkey. This shows that not only objective reasons influence the process. The authorities allow shortcomings in the management of processes on agrifood markets,” stated Alexandru Slusari.
The public debate entitled “Facets of food crisis in the Republic of Moldova and the world” was the 252nd installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.