EU leaders need to look at the bigger picture and act urgently

Published: 31st May 2022

Today, EU leaders met in Brussels to discuss the implications of the Ukraine war on food security.  

In response, Hanna Saarinen, Oxfam EU food expert said:  

“EU leaders must learn from this moment. Only by taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, can they avoid copy-pasting the same policies which led to the food price crisis of 2007-2008, and which have led to the one the world faces today.  

“We know the current food system does not work. It is based on unequal distribution and overdependence on food imports. Countries in many parts of the world are dependent on Ukrainian and Russian wheat to feed their people. This dependency is dangerous. It makes countries vulnerable to market disruptions and price hikes. As prices increase sharply, more people cannot afford the food that is already there. 

“Scaling up food production in the EU is not the solution. What we need is a rethinking of how we feed the world. Firstly, to respond to the immediate humanitarian needs, the EU must provide urgent aid support and help bridge the gap between what people can afford and the price of the food they need. The current pledges are not enough. Secondly, the EU must boost its budget for local small-scale family farming in low-income countries. These farmers form the very foundation of people’s food security. They should be supported in having more access to land, funding, infrastructure, and markets, and have their rights protected. This is the only way to escape the looming hunger crises.” 

Notes to editors

Oxfam experts are available for comment. 

European Council conclusions 30- 31 May 2022

Read Oxfam’s briefing, Ukraine crisis: How and why it could cause hunger crises globally to worsen. It documents case studies of hunger hotspots from Yemen, Syria, and East Africa. Over 50 percent of Lebanese wheat exports are from Ukraine according to the World Food Programme. The cost of basic food goods in Lebanon is up 1000 percent.  

Read Oxfam and Save the Children’s report, Dangerous Delay 2: The cost of inaction, which shows how one person is likely dying from hunger every 48 seconds in the drought-ravaged East Africa as the world again fails to heed warnings. 

The FAO Food Price Index is available here

In April 2022, Oxfam published a new report, “First Crisis, Then Catastrophe”, warning that over a quarter of a billion more people could crash into extreme levels of poverty in 2022 because of COVID-19, rising global inequality, and the shock of food price rises supercharged by the war in Ukraine. At the same time, the value of the 1,200 largest companies in the world has increased by 56 percent since the beginning of 2019, and US corporates have made record profits of 37 percent while paying a smaller share of federal tax revenue.

Contact information

Jade Tenwick | Brussels, Belgium | | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

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