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Global Food Security Forum day one: Why food supply is on the brink – Atlantic Council

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November 12, 2022 • 8:09am ET
By Atlantic Council
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A global forum gathering food security leaders across government, industry, and civil society assessing food security as a global challenge and offering bold solutions to strengthen food systems, secure supply chains, and fight world hunger. This forum is co-hosted with the Gaurav and Sharon Srivastava Family Foundation, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia, and the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment of the Republic of Indonesia and takes place on November 12-13 on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali.
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FREDERICK KEMPE: It’s my pleasure today to kick off our first day of programming at the Atlantic Council’s first-ever Global Food Security Forum as an official sideline event of the G20 summit here in Bali.
So the Atlantic Council’s mission for sixty years has been to galvanize constructive US leadership alongside partners and allies to shape the future. The mission is old, but the relationship for us in Indonesia is new.
The Atlantic Council in many ways is a misnomer geographically because we’ve been the global Atlantic Council for some time, with programs and centers that span interests around the globe wherever we have partners and allies working to shape the future.
We’re known as a think tank. I’ve never liked the term. We’re more of an action tank. We like actors, practitioners, scholars like you who want to come here not just to hear speeches, but to come up with ideas, come up with recommendations, come up with solutions for a better world, and in this case particularly with food security.
And so I’m delighted, in that spirit, to convene such an accomplished group of local, regional, and international leaders across government, business, civil society, media for today’s series of roundtable discussions on global food security. For those that are joining us virtually—and this is an on-the-record session; we also have a virtual global audience—this will also be recast for people at sometimes better hour for their region. But we welcome you all, and you can follow along with the hashtag #AtlanticCouncilFoodSecurity. So the hashtag on Twitter, #AtlanticCouncilFoodSecurity. We’re still using Twitter. We’re not sure we’d invest in it.
But the—I’d like to first acknowledge and thank our forum co-hosts, including the Ministry of Defense and Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment of the Republic of Indonesia, for their partnership and hospitality in organizing this conference. So a huge thanks to Minister Prabowo Subianto and Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who will speak to us tomorrow in sessions tomorrow, in keynotes tomorrow.
I most of all want to thank, sitting to my left, my seat next to me and the seat next to him, Gaurav Srivastava of the Gaurav and Sharon Srivastava Foundation, our forum co-host and underwriting partner. So, Gaurav and Sharon, thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your vision. Thank you for your generosity. We quite literally would not be here without you, so thank you so much for that.
I also want to salute someone I’ve just respected for many years for his service to our country and for his intellectual leadership, General Wes Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, of NATO, and member—and the senior member attending this conference of the Atlantic Council Board of Directors. He is here as our board leader and was a driving force between this impressive conference—where are you, Wes? Here we go. General Clark.
I briefly—I’m very briefly going to preview what you expect over the next two days. Today we’ll engage in two roundtable discussions on the state of global food security and challenges involved. These sessions will allow us to delve into the topic deeply and in a little bit more of an expert manner, drilling a little deeper than perhaps we’ll do tomorrow, and lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s programming which will feature a diverse set of keynotes, fireside chats, and panel discussions expanding on the topics we address today. Not only will we have Minister Prabowo and Minister Luhut, we’ll also have the US Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, joining us virtually; a couple of members of Congress, so it’s going to be a very strong day.
And then lastly—and we hope you will all be here for the close tomorrow evening—we’re going to close the conference with an exclusive concert for those who are attending our conference with the celebrated singer/songwriter, John Legend, who has—they call him an EGOT-awarded singer/songwriter. That means he has won the Emmy, he has won the Grammy, he has won the Golden Globe, he has won the Oscar, he has won the Tony. It’s extraordinary that we’ll have him tomorrow playing beside songwriter/singer—Indonesian singer/songwriter Sandhy Sondoro. I think all of you from Indonesia know him well. And the US Air Force Band of the Pacific which you heard up behind us today. So it’s truly an extraordinary way to conclude these two days.
Global food security sits at the nexus of the world’s most pressing challenges as food security rises threatened by near-term shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic, Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, and long-term risks of climate change and sustained conflict. Ending world hunger will require enhanced public-private cooperation and wide-ranging innovation in agriculture, technology, finance, and policy.
Putin’s weaponization of food security in the last year has underscored that food security has got to be discussed together with energy security, with military security, with all aspects of international and national security. One cannot deal with it separately.
Today’s workshop, roundtable serve as a venue for and driver of this cooperation. The goal of these discussions is to allow all of you an opportunity to delve into food security challenges and solutions in this more—in a smaller setting than tomorrow, laying the groundwork for our second day.
At the end of the conference, we will be distilling insights from our meetings and collecting them into a memo and concrete recommendations for leaders of the G20 summit and beyond. So as you make your comments, as you make your statements, as you raise your questions, keep in mind what in there might be a notion that we might want to put a pin in as an idea for action. Our challenge to each of you is to help us identify these concrete solutions and recommendations that we today can turn to policy action, so an action tank; not a think tank.
I want to remind everyone that this session is on the record and is being live-streamed for a public audience. If you wish to speak or provide comments, raise your hand and we will pass you a microphone. And now before we get started, I’d like to turn to Gaurav for a few remarks. And let me thank you once again for your vision and your support of this wonderful gathering.
GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: Thank you.
Thank you, Fred.
Excellencies, members, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and warmest greetings. On behalf of our devoted planners, partners, facilitators, and my courageous wife and life partner, Sharon, we welcome you. We welcome you with open arms and optimistic hearts. I am emboldened to see so many familiar faces—friends, colleagues, and my extended global family and cherished community united in a singularly imperative mission to end the pain and suffering of all human beings, a mission that must succeed.
I would like to thank the Atlantic Council, Fred Kempe, and his unrivaled team. Thank you. Their perseverance, resolve, and commitment to making this momentous event a reality.
I would like to thank our other partners—the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia and the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment of the Republic of Indonesia—for making this forum possible.
I would also like to thank my dear friend Pak Hashim for making this event possible. Thank you.
There are innumerable challenges facing our planet, our citizens, and our way of life –obstacles that threaten to breach and undermine our most basic core human values; to overshadow our proudest achievements; to completely replace peace, love, and benevolence with war, hate, and indefensible cruelty—an affront to everything as we as human beings are. Time and time again, it’s been said we cannot and we will not let this happen. And still, as we gather today, desperate men, women, and innocent children from all four corners of the globe are facing food insecurity—driven to the brink of starvation; suffering; robbed of dignity, respect, and hope.
But the question is: How can this be? How can this abomination, this seismic crisis of inhumanity continue to blight the existence of even one global citizen? We know the contributing factors far too well: the social and economic root causes; the vicious cycles of poverty, inequity, and bloody conflicts which only serve to divide and destroy. These unrivaled problems need expedited solutions. These complex questions demand pragmatic answers. And that’s why we have come from far and wide to shoulder the burden of blame together, to share the responsibility of rectifying our wrongs, to harness the conviction and tenacity of our most brilliant minds and leaders, and tirelessly work together to restore the sanctity of the human race to ensure peace and prosperity for everyone.
This forum, these workshops, are about discovery and discourse, about difficult conversations that must be had. The conflict in Ukraine, the ramifications of COVID-19, the catastrophic market shocks, and the critical interconnectivity of food and energy, that reminds us we must work together.
Ladies and gentlemen, the goal is clear, the stakes immeasurable, the mandate divine. Thank you and god speed.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Adam Schwarz. I’m a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy at the Atlantic Council and CEO of Asia Group Advisors, a public affairs firm focused on Southeast Asia. I’d like to add my welcome to that of Fred’s and Gaurav’s to everybody here to join us on this opening panel of the Global Food Security conference, and thank Fred and Gaurav for pulling us all together today on this very important topic.
I want to just spend a little time just kind of on a format for today. As you can see, we’ve got quite a large group today. We don’t have any prepared remarks or opening remarks planned on the schedule, so what I’d like to do is start with a few questions and then we’ll open it up to questions. Feel free to raise your hand. I’ll do my best to keep track of the sequence in which the hands were raised. Given that we do have such a large number of people in the room, I would ask if people could keep their remarks relatively brief—two or three minutes, if you can—and we’ll try to give as many people an opportunity to speak as we can.
In terms of sequence, as Fred was saying, what we’d like to do with this opening panel is to lay out a number of the challenges—and there are obviously quite a few—with food security at the moment, and then—and then move into a discussion of solutions and recommendations to be sort of added to the list that we hope to get to by the end of this two-day conference.
So let me—let me then, if I may, start with Pak Hashim, who has done so much to make this event happen. And, Pak Hashim, let me just sort of ask you your thoughts. You know, what sort of drove you to bring this event here? Why is it so important for us to have this event here on food security in Indonesia at this—at this stage?
HASHIM DJOJOHADIKUSUMO: Adam, thanks very much for addressing your remarks to me and addressing your question to me. I think the major reason for my involvement in this forum and the efforts to bring this about is because—it’s because of Indonesia’s increasing interdependence on global markets.
You know, I think many, many people are very surprised, especially Europeans and North Americans, as to the effect of the Ukraine crisis, the Ukraine war, on countries as far away as Indonesia. But one statistic it comes out very glaringly, is the fact that Indonesia imports, I think this year, 14 million tons of wheat—14 millions of tons of wheat. Indonesia produces very, very little wheat. I think it’s zero tonnage. And therefore, anything that happens in faraway places such as Ukraine has a direct impact on the livelihoods of Indonesians.
And I understand—and somebody asked me, why is the Ministry of Defense of Indonesia involved in this forum. It is because many of Indonesia’s 500,000 soldiers depend on what is—what we call Indomie, which is the instant noodles, for their food supply every day. So any negative impact on prices would have a direct impact on the soldiers of the Indonesian armed forces and the wider population.
So this is, you know, the primary reason why I got involved. And any impact on wheat prices has another impact on other commodities, other food—corn, sorghum, rice—and has, you know, a knock-on impact. So that’s primarily the reason why I got involved.
Thank you, Adam.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Thank you very much, Pak Hashim.
And let me now turn—given that, obviously, the—what’s been happening in Ukraine is such an important part of this discussion we’re having today, I’d like to turn to Kira Rudik. If you would—maybe just ask you kind of the same question. In your view, just lay out for us in your—why you think this is—this is such a critical issue for us to deal with today.
KIRA RUDIK: Hello, everyone. I am Kira Rudik, member of Ukrainian parliament, leader of the liberal party, Golos. And it’s my pleasure to being here today.
It’s nine months since the full-scale invasion by Russia in my country started. And it may seem as literally another side of the Earth from here, but one of the things and one of the lessons that this world teaches us is how connected we are to each other, how dependent we are on each other, and how fragile are the connections that are between us.
Before the war started, my country was top five world’s largest exporters of wheat, grains, sunflower oil, tomatoes, and corn. Right now, my country—who’s one of the missions is to feed the world—has so much complications in doing so. The ability to provide to the whole world is essential and critical for us, and the war would definitely affect the food security not only in the countries that have the direct connections with Ukraine but all the countries in the whole world.
Since the beginning of full-scale invasion, the food prices, the grain prices have gone up 30 percent. And the issue is that it is not only this year that would be affected because you can imagine that it is very hard to plant—to plant wheat during the bombarding and to get the harvest during the bombarding. To have the territory of Ukraine, our huge lands, mined, and where we were supposed to provide for the life, there is death right now. And this is killing us. This is killing us as people of purpose, as people who are there to continue being the breadbasket of the whole world.
There is a grain deal, an ability to export the grains from Ukraine using the ports. It is incredibly important because one of the worst thing that could be for a farmer—and you can imagine that—is to see grains rotting in the siloes. So that’s a fantastic one, but it is such a fragile agreement. Every single moment the ship is going in and out, it’s so many people having fingers crossed or praying because you never know if it’s going to reach its destination. So what kind of food security is there if it’s absolutely not secure?
So, for any discussion about security and about the ability for my country to continue to provide for the whole world, we should start with the question of peace. We should start with the question of victory. We should start with the question of predictability. We should start of the question of security because food security comes as add-on to the general security.
And the impact of what is going on right now we will see moving further down the road because even during the war Ukrainian farmers were able to get onto 80 percent of the suggested harvest, but we do not know what will happen next year and the year after. We will do our best because this is one of the missions of my country. But would we be able to do so? That depends on the support of the international community that we are asking for. Help us help you. Help us to provide to you. Help us complete our mission: feed the whole world.
Thank you and glory to Ukraine.
FREDERICK KEMPE: So I just wanted—I just wanted to say, first of all, thank you for your heroism and thank you for the heroism of the Ukrainians.
We also, at the Atlantic Council, want Russia to find its way into a Europe whole and free over time. That is our goal. We did invite Russians to attend today and we regret that they aren’t here.
But in any case, Kira, that’s a wonderful statement, and thank you for putting this into context. Russia and Ukraine together provide a third of the world’s wheat. And so Pak Hashim talked about wheat. That’s where it comes from, so much of it.
So let me pass back to Adam to continue the moderation, and I think we have a special guest.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Fred, thank you very much.
I would like to acknowledge Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who has just joined us. Welcome, sir. And if I may ask you to say a few words to the group, obviously, defense is—and the security implications of the food crisis. Would you prefer to talk tomorrow? Yes, sir. Very good. We’ll –
PRABOWO SUBIANTO: Yeah, I just want to listen.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Very good. We’ll continue on, then.
So what I thought we might turn to next, after talking about the specific country level that we just talked about, was talk a little bit kind of the regional differences on how the food security challenge is impacting different parts of the world. And I’d like to ask two people to sort of address that. The first is Qingfeng Zhang from the Asian Development Bank and the second would be General Wesley Clark. So, Mr. Zhang, could I ask you to begin, please? Well, I’m going to start with Qingfeng.
QINGFENG ZHANG: Yes. Thank you so much, Adam. First, we are honored by you guys invite Asian Development Bank to attend this very important forum.
In terms of the regional difference of food security, three things I want to highlight. Even before the Russia invasion of the Ukraine, this region already suffering from the political conflict, including, like, Afghanistan, Myanmar. The very, very deep food insecurity already taking place.
And also, this region, of course, before the Russia invasion of Ukraine, climate change also have the big impact in this region. You just look the floods, droughts… affect the food insecurity. And you look at what happened in Pakistan this year, the floods, and also droughts and the heat wave in India, and of course, you know, the droughts in the Yangtze River was a significant affect the food security.
And again, just like our Indonesia counterpart just mentioned about it, the Russia invasion of Ukraine basically escalate, you know, the food insecurity risk many of our countries. And these 13 countries heavily rely on import of the wheat, fertilizer from Russia and also the Ukraine.
So when we come to the what we need to do, I think it’s no single blueprint. But three things are very, very important. Number one, you know, is demand-side management. Two is supply side. Third is the logistics.
So I want to just quickly share, you know, in September ADB just announced 14 billion US dollars food security plan to address those three issues. Of course, the first one, short term we’re going to provide the social protection, social safety net, address and support the vulnerable people. As a second, of course, is for long term from the supply side to support the… agriculture, digitalization of value chain, and then the natural-based solutions. Thirdly, one thing we need to learn from the 2008 food crisis; that’s, you know, we need to keep the trade flowing and open. But unfortunately, this year you can see even in this region about the treaty countries is they are introduce trade restrictions. So I think through this group of discussions we need to continue promote the open trade and regional cooperation, particularly for fertilizer.
Probably let me just stop here, I think, today. Tomorrow, we will have the chance to continue the discussions. Thank you, Adam.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Thank you very much, Qingfeng.
General Clark, your sense of how the food security challenge is impacting different parts of the world?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RET.): Well, thank you, Adam.
First of all, I think the problem between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the consequent shutdown of exports from Ukraine through the Black Sea has brought global attention to the food security issue. But it’s overdue attention. This is not a problem of one event. This is a problem that has been building for several decades now.
To the immediate issue, of course, those shipping routes need to be opened in the Black Sea and they need to stay open. The farmers in Ukraine need to be able to plant, to fertilize, to harvest, and market. At the same time, Russia also must export grain and fertilizer and get the world agricultural system back in check.
But as Pak Hashim noted earlier, this is a deeper problem because, really, populations have grown, consumer preferences are evolving. And as the Global South increases in development, it wants to eat the same food as the Global North, and yet these lands don’t support the same crops. So Pak Hashim, you were mentioning the 40 million tons of wheat being imported. Yes, and this is representative of the problem all across the Global South. We’ve enjoyed the chocolates and coffee that come from tropical countries, but they could be producing millet and other grains. They could be subsisting and living on cassava, which can be grown there rather than importing wheat. But the global economy has knitted us together in such a way, through these global supply chains, population growth, and changing consumer preferences, that we’ve built a system that is so interconnected, it’s so efficient in terms of just-in-time delivery that any shock causes perturbations; perturbations like rising prices, and of course that hits the lower income the most—the most difficult.
It hits countries in North Africa and East Africa the hardest because they need the grain imports the most right now, but it really is a global issue. It’s hitting people in South America. It’s hitting the American consumer. It is exacerbated by energy because when the price of natural gas rises, then the price of fertilizer rises. When the price of oil rises, then the costs of shipping go up. So everything is connected here.
Thomas Malthus, over 200 years ago, predicted population would explode geometrically, but food production could not keep up. And every few decades, someone reinvents Malthusian economics and says it’s over.
So when I was a young man growing up, the world population was two billion. People said it can’t possibly support five billion. I was at the Milken Conference ten years ago when we crested seven billion—seven billion—and now we’re at eight billion. And yet what’s happened is technology has enabled us to provide food and even better nutrition, but we’ve done so with the metrics of international finance. And now even international finance is an issue for us because, for over a decade, since the financial shocks of 2008-9, we’ve had very, very low credit costs. So it was easy to borrow money, create your letters of credit, finance international trade.
Well, now the cost of money is going up. It is being driven by the United States’ own Federal Reserve System. Now maybe we’re going to see it capped at a 4 percent, 4-1/2 percent fed rate. We don’t know yet. But we do know that the financial implications of this are worldwide in terms of what it does to rates of exchange for currency, and what it does for the cost of imported food in countries around the world.
So it’s a very, very complicated, interrelated system, and where it ties in to me, especially, in my lifetime, is with the issue of instability and conflict. So we can look at what happened in Syria in 2010. We know that was related to land reform. It was related to an increasing inability of people to buy the food they needed for subsistence as they became urbanized. It was also related, of course, to another factor that we’re driving, and that’s climate change.
So between Syria, the Sahel in Africa, Somalia, and East Africa, changing rainfall patterns, everything is in the mix. So what we hope—what I hope we’ll be able to do, Adam, in this workshop is the various experts here will jump in, give us their particular points of view, and then we’ll use this to make sure that in the upcoming session tomorrow and for the G20 we don’t let political leaders skate over the problem. These are problems; they have to be addressed realistically—not in campaign pledges, but with real programs, real technology, and real financing.
Thank you.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Let me, if I may, now turn to Ibu Nani Hendiarti from the Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment. Ibu Nani, for your—if you will share some thoughts with us from the variety of portfolios that you cover, how is this looming food security issue impacting those portfolios? Thank you.
NANI HENDIARTI: Thank you, General Wesley. Very good afternoon excellencies, ladies and gentlemans. I think I would to thanks for this very good even where we see the issue on the food securities is very important, beside water and energy.
So in our national program priority, we said that this food security is at a low priority, so—and then we have several programs to support these priority—national priorities. So we understand. I think we really see that agriculture specifically is impacted by two issues. One of this in context of the climate change, where they have also different impact to the both sides… And then also the—in terms of the adaptation of the climate change, but also in terms of the mitigations where we understand the methane is also part of this agriculture sector that we need to give specific attentions.
So I think in the context of this we would like to highlight also that this issue will also connect with the rising of the global population and also incomes, as well as the urbanizations, are also driving strong and… grow in the food.
So beside also that link with the food, I think water is also other essential element of our existence. For example, in Java, islands in Indonesia, it’s the most populated island with about almost 150 million of people. So the rapid urbanization in Java boosts water demand for the household and also the industry. That is creating also competition with irrigations in important water-scarce agriculture region.
So I would like—then we would like to also rising this issue so the… connection between the three is important, especially food and water, I think. Yeah. Thank you very much. Thank you.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Thank you, Ibu Nani.
So let me move now to—not as if the food security challenge is not a significant enough one as it is, but given that we are hosting this conference while COP27 is ongoing, I did want to open the floor and ask a few questions about the intersections of food insecurity and the problems—the logistics problems that we are having globally with the parallel and climate change challenge.
And I’d like to begin with Willie Smits, the chief science officer at Arsari Group. Willie, thank you. Can we get a mic in the middle there? Thank you.
WILLIE SMITS: Thank you, Adam. Long time that you came to see the orangutans in East Kalimantan… Yeah, I’m more on the solution-based side of the equation, looking at how we can overcome the problems. So maybe I’d like to go into depth that there is actually hope. We are looking at indeed the interconnections between climate and food security. We see shifting climate zones. We see forests dying off in Siberia, in Canada, and as a result we have very big emissions of CO2, and we have land-use changes. So all of those are also going to impact what crops can be produced where, what diseases, what pests will be impacting the agricultural productivity. So on a worldwide scale, these interconnections are more than obvious with the shifting climate zones that we are facing.
But there are also local solutions that need to be sought in the tropics. Here in the tropics we have the most stable climatological conditions so we can create agroforests, and agroforests, they can provide all the services that the people need. They can provide the food security, they can provide materials, they can provide energy, they regulate the local climate, they absorb vast amounts of CO2. We can produce biochar from all the waste materials that can be absorbed into soil in quantities that are much, much higher than what we face at the moment in the atmosphere. So we can actually reduce the risk of fires, we can create more jobs, and that way we can reduce the impact upon the remaining forests. We can increase biodiversity.
But those systems are not turnkey because they are complicated. People need to know how, people need to integrate various technologies and plans. But if you understand about nature and you see how nature has regenerated soil, then it is possible to do so. There’s things like the fungi on the roots of the trees that produce a substance called glomalin and that can fix the soil, prevent erosion, store again carbon.
So really, those are the ways to go. We should go away from this monoculture attitude which is actually gambling and is much more susceptible to pests and diseases and as they are influenced by climate change worldwide.
So I think more attention for the mixed systems and the real solutions. Thank you.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Very good. Thank you very much.
Let me—and that’s a good beginning segue into the solution part of our conversation, but before we get there, I didn’t want to table one or two other issues or challenges, and perhaps we could now turn to sort of the politics and geopolitics.
We have with us today Peter Engelke—I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly—and Nicole Goldin, who have been looking at this issue from the Atlantic Council from both a political and an economic perspective.
I’d like to ask each of you to sort of share your thoughts from those different perspectives—how you see these emerging and probably increasing implications from the food security challenge that we are facing.
Peter, can we start with you?
PETER ENGELKE: Sure, great. Thank you so much. And thank you, everyone, for joining with the Atlantic Council here today and tomorrow. We’re delighted that this event is upon us.
So I run our Foresight practice at the Atlantic Council which means that we take the idea of sort of longer time scales. We take that seriously, and so to answer the question about sort of where are we headed when we look at food and its relationship to geopolitics, I mean, it might be appropriate to look at where we’ve been historically.
And where we’ve been, frankly, is that in the long sweep of human history is that if you look at city-states, nations, empires, et cetera, that food and geopolitics have been incredibly intertwined over the longer sweep of our history through cities, states, nations, empires trying to secure supplies of food—stable supplies of food through domestic production, through trade and diplomacy, but also through—and this is the critical point, I think—through conquest and through warfare, and that food has been both a source and a consequence of conflict and warfare for much of our species’ history. States have sought to deny their rivals access to food as well as the territory upon which the food is produced.
And as a result of that, of course, individuals have suffered greatly. We’ve already heard about that this morning. Hunger and famine have been, of course, the twin results of that conflict over time.
If you flash to the world that we live in now, you flash forward, we have been living in a really pretty benign relationship, if you’re talking about geopolitics on the one hand and food on the other, since really the end of the Second World War. Until not that long ago, we could make a claim that the modern global food system has been a real improvement over the history that I just described. I mean, we have had, as we’ve heard this morning, an open global trading system plus a very tech- and energy-intensive system. That has meant that we’ve been able to dramatically increase the amount of food that we can produce globally. This is per General Clark’s point earlier about how we can get from feeding 2 billion people to now 8 billion people in the world, and therefore defeat Malthus in the process.
This system, of course, is not perfect. Never has been. There’s all kinds of problems with it, as we’ve also heard this morning. But nonetheless, that linkage between food and geopolitics is—has been a little bit more sedate in the post-Second World War period.
Then we come to this year, right? We come to 2022 and we see, of course, the impact of the war in Ukraine, which, as we’ve already heard this morning, that conflict can, in fact, have real global repercussions on the question of food and the relationship, therefore, between food and sort of power in the world. It also reinforces, as we’ve also heard this morning, that the global food system that we’ve built, upon which we’ve relied—also a point that General Clark made earlier about the efficiency of that system—that efficiency of that system is highly vulnerable to disruption. There are only a relatively small number of breadbaskets in the world. And if you choke off one or more of those through drought, through flooding, through warfare, you can actually have real and unfortunate impacts on the world, in addition to the high dependence that we have on energy and the energy system.
And if you add to all of this what I call ecology’s long shadow—which is not just climate change; it’s biodiversity and the problems that come with both of those things—we’re entering into a world that I would characterize as more geopolitical risk surrounding food rather than less. And that I don’t think has characterized the world that we’ve inhabited for a very long time. So if we look ahead, we’re looking at sources of risk between the relationship between food on the one hand, geopolitics on the other that arise from climate shocks, right, that the severe drought and flooding, heat waves, et cetera that we’ve seen in the world over the last few years, that are—it’s becoming more common. It’s going to continue to be more common in the future.
The impacts, of course, are going to be negative on food production. And as a result, therefore, you’re going to get impacts on fragility—state fragility around the world, and therefore you’re going to get the spillover consequences from that. You’re going to get more conflict in localized areas. You’re going to get forced outmigration in more.
And then, of course, you’ve got a series of geopolitical shocks that arise from—arise from all of this, including the increased risk of hoarding and protectionism even by major states in the system. And of course, the specter, frankly, of conflicts over food between states, which has—we’ve been largely spared from in the—in the post-Second World War period.
And then the last source of risk I would—I would point out would be really the risk that the global governance system is not going to keep up with the demand for solutions, right? We know, looking at the interstate system, that it’s not easy to arrive at global solutions through world—through global agreements. And as a result, there is a real possibility that, despite the scale of this challenge, that, like, for example, thus far with climate change, we may run the risk of not being able to solve—to address this problem through multilateral solutions.
And then, on top of all of this, I think it’s also important to point out that we’re trying to decarbonize the energy system at the very same time, that very same energy system that we’re—that feeds, quite literally, the global food system.
And I know that I—I don’t want to go too much longer, but I want to say that the future is not lost, despite what I just said. There is quite a bit of room for optimism. We’ve heard that from a number of speakers. And that’s why we’re all here, because we believe in that.
The first is, of course, there is enormous space for innovation. We’ve been innovating our way out of the Malthus trap for two centuries, and that’s going to continue. We have speakers here at this conference who are going to be speaking directly to the ways in which we can innovate, not just through technology but through approaches to how we harvest food and grow food.
The second, of course, is that there is, in fact, always cooperation for global governance, including at forums like the G20, right—that human beings possess agency and states possess agency, and that we need to remember that. It may be hard. It may be difficult. It may be really difficult to tackle so-called wicked problems. But it can be done.
And then, finally, we can, in fact, diversify the production challenges that we just heard about to make the global food system more resilient by geography—in other words, create more breadbaskets around the world; by commodity, to reduce our dependence on just a few small numbers of seed varieties in the world; and then by type of production, in other words to go to these kinds of solutions involving agro-forestry, more creative sort of aquaculture, and the like.
And with that, I’ll stop. Thank you.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Nicole? And if I could ask you to keep it a little bit brief because I want to move us into our solution part of our conversation. Thank you.
NICOLE GOLDIN: Absolutely. Thank you. I’ll just make a couple of additional points and add on to all that Peter and some other folks have said already on what I would say are the geopolitical economy dynamics at play.
And just picking up a little bit on some of the things we’ve heard about population hitting 8 billion and some of the demographic issues and how those play into the geopolitical economy, is that in addition to thinking about these at the kind of country and the broad macro level, it’s also really about people, right, at the community and even in the household level. And so when we think about those geopolitical economy dynamics, I think we also want to make sure that we’re getting into the solutions conversation, that we’re recognizing that not all people and not all places are affected equally.
So we talked a little bit about some of the regional distinctions, but we would, I think, be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge and bring into the conversation the fact that women and young people are particularly often disproportionately impacted by the food crisis, women and children in particular. And so how we think about that in terms of household dynamics, I think, is really critical.
We talked a little bit about region. I was pleased to hear the coordinator bring up urbanization because, again, those urban food-insecurity issues are often not as prominent in the conversation or in the solutions conversation. So we really need to think about those rural-urban linkages and those dynamics, particularly as they come back to play in terms of that conflict and stabilization, right, and getting back to those young people who are more than half the world’s population and how they are impacted by these at the individual level and how those kind of aggregate up into community and national issues.
So I’ll stop there. I know we’re short on time. But thank you and look forward to continuing.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Thank you, Nicole.
So I’d like us now to sort of begin to slide into the—what I’ve been thinking of as or describing as the solution part of the conversation. Obviously, it’s an equally complex and broad conversation as is the challenges.
I’d like to ask David Merrill, the president of the US-Indonesia Society. David, you ran, actually, a large food security conference in Washington I believe last month. Maybe we could ask you to kind of set a framework here for what are the different parts of the solution set that the world is looking at to sort of begin to meet this challenge. Thank you.
DAVID MERRILL: Well, first of all, I’m going to agree with General Wesley Clark. It’s always a good idea anyway, and he happens to be right.
It’s excellent to discuss the troubled state of global food security, but the task is: What is the world going to do about it? We have come a long way. In the spring of this year, the G20 wasn’t even sure that it wanted to deal with global food security. It said this is a political issue; this is not an economic issue. And it took about four or five weeks for the G20 to come around to say this is an economic development issue no matter how much it’s related to war.
At this moment maybe someone knows—I don’t know—whether there will be a G20 food security communique. First of all, it has to be no objection by any member of the G20, so that alone means we don’t know for sure unless someone knows. But there are things that can be in it.
First of all, the international organizations have to agree to do what they can—the multilateral development banks, the World Food Programme, the FAO, the WTO, and others. I think progress is being made on that. I think it was made on that this summer during the multilateral meetings held here in Bali.
On fertilizers, I don’t know whether there will be specific recommendations on fertilizers. There should be, on increasing fertilizer supply, on the kind of fertilizer, on how they should be used efficiently, and so on. There are many people in this room who are experts on that. Whether their ideas will be translated into G20 recommendations…
Domestic supply response needs to be cultivated.
And there should be, I think and others do, some kind of mechanism created out of the G20 itself for some kind of forum for discussion of global food security, possibly chaired by Indonesia. This does not have to be an organization that will dictate to others, but it has to be, in my view, an organization that can continue to examine and bring about solutions coming out of this G20 meeting.
So I think that we need to build a bridge. There are those of us here who probably know how to do that, if it’s not too late, to the G20 food security communique. Here we are in Bali. The meeting is taking place tomorrow or this week. And there’s a lot of talent in this room. The principle that NGO suggestions should be looked at by official bodies is well-accepted. So I encourage us to do everything we can to produce some recommendations for food security for the G20. Thanks.
ADAM SCHWARZ: David, thank you very much.
Since you mentioned fertilizer as a key issue, which it most certainly is, I’d like to ask Michael Vatikiotis, to my right here, who’s a senior advisor for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and has been involved in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, on the issue of fertilizer to maybe bring to the group a few of the ideas and initiatives that you’ve been working on. Thank you.
MICHAEL VATIKIOTIS: Thank you, Adam. Thank you, Adam.
First of all, just to echo Dave Merrill’s very, very important points there, that the G20 is an extremely good opportunity to actually bring forward ideas for supportive mechanisms on some of these key issues.
I think, first of all, just to—because there’s a lot of concern about the fallout from the uncertainty around the Black Sea Grain Initiative. I mean, let’s first of all just say what it is. I mean, the main assumption was that if sufficient grain, you know, and agricultural products were able to move into the world markets from, as we’ve heard earlier, a part of the world where most of it comes from or a good part of it comes from, then global wheat prices—not so much just supply, but global wheat prices—would come down. This, in turn—this, in fact, turned out to be true. In the—in the weeks ahead of the actual agreement on July 22 and then actually following the agreement, the price rises that we’d seen after the invasion of Ukraine, in fact, stabilized. And these gains were erased by July. So that was the good news.
Now, the difficulties were markets. Markets are always jittery. And with the current agreement, even as Russia has come back into the agreement, the expectation of the market was that grain supply would be resumed fully or at least efficiently, but that’s not been the case. And of course, now there’s the expectation or the worry that the agreement could be interrupted again or its—or its rollover and renewal affected by the situation on the ground. So prices are still the issue. There’s been a lot of discussion about the fact that the grain supplies themselves have not necessarily been going to less-developed countries. It’s all about the price.
And that brings me on to fertilizers, because, of course, the global price of fertilizers and the supply of fertilizers has been severely impacted. Seventy percent of Europe’s fertilizer production is now at a standstill, and that supply needs to be resumed. And that means ammonium nitrate from Russia through to Ukraine, also potash from Belarus.
But I will just make a larger point, if I may, Adam, about, you know, the—speaking to what we just heard from Dave about the need for support mechanisms for these kinds of solutions. I also feel—and I hope that in the following session, after 2:45, which—after 3:00, which I’ll be moderating, we can begin to put some ideas down for consideration by the G20. It seems to me that many of these solutions are contingent and have not yet been well-linked or coordinated.
So the Black Sea Grain Initiative is great. But as we’ve heard in the room today, there are all these other issues that are affecting world food prices as well. A question I would ask is: Is the WTO, UNCTAD, the FAO, and the WFP, are they all arranged in line to address the problems in a coordinated way? And that, I think, speaks to Dave’s very good suggestion that perhaps there should be a mechanism for global food security.
Thank you.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Michael, thank you very much.
So there’s a lot of interesting commercial innovation around the table that has been focused on addressing this challenge, and I’d like to begin to turn our conversation into that direction. I’d like to begin with Gaurav Srivastava. Your foundation has been looking at this—these issues quite intensively. Can I ask you to kind of begin with your thoughts on that subject?
GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: Yes. Thank you very much.
It is—you know, it was a very important point you brought about price. And especially we are here in Indonesia, where it is a price-sensitive market. The important thing to remember, as we have heard, is food security and energy security is national security. And I think the tremendous work from the minister of defense making Indonesia an independent nation and also on the security has been tremendous.
We’re talking about two of the breadbaskets of the world, Russia and Ukraine, right? And at the foundation, we have been looking at the correlation between energy and food, right? And it’s important to remember while we are working on these renewable energy solutions, which are critical and which I think will address the needs in the future, there is a transition period. That is just the reality of it. And we have to regulate the energy that fuels the ships, that the fuels the tractors, that fuels the cars, that—or that will basically reduce or make the price more manageable.
The other issue, which is an important issue—and I would like to turn to Pak Hashim after this—is the difference how does the commercial industry work and how do policymakers work. And there is sometimes a disconnect between that. And given Pak Hashim’s background in the commodities sector, I would like you to shed some light on that. And after that, maybe, Niels, you can say a few words, if that’s OK. Is that OK?
ADAM SCHWARZ: Yes. Sure.
GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: Pak Hashim?
HASHIM DJOJOHADIKUSUMO: Right. Gaurav, thanks very much.
Yes, I just want to say just a few words, actually, you know, just in support of what Michael Vatikiotis said and David Merrill, that we are discussing food security but actually maybe the next time we should have it combined with energy. Because, as you both said and Gaurav also said, they’re intertwined, you know? Food and energy is intertwined, right? Higher energy prices impact food prices and impact the fertilizer and so forth.
So I think—I think that’s basically what I want to say. I mean, it’s—I think some of the folks here on my left mentioned the impact on North Africa, on East Africa, and we talked about climate change. One small little aspect that I just want to add to what all of you folks have said. I think there’s a demographic challenge in the future. We’re talking about the near-term challenges, but there is a medium- and long-term challenge, and that’s the demographic—I would call a demographic challenge.
It’s that, Indonesia, agriculture is not a particularly popular profession for young people. And if you notice in this island of Bali, most of the farmers are over 50—50 years old, 60 years old, even, you know, approaching my age, 68. And if you notice, most of the young people in Bali and I would say also in Java, they prefer to have—work in factories, work in hospitality and restaurants, and not particularly enticed by agriculture. So I think it’s a long-term problem that we have, and I think it’s not only Indonesia. I think it’s other parts of the—you know, the developing world.
There’s one statistic that some of you may know or may not know. It’s that, actually, Indonesia today is a majority-urban society. Fifty-six percent of Indonesians live in what are called urban areas—56 percent. Only 44 percent of Indonesians live in rural areas. And even then, young people are going to the cities because they’re more excited by city life and so forth. So there is a movement in Indonesia to what they call the digital agriculture. It’s to make agriculture more appealing to the TikTok generation, you know, to the people—and you know, a lot of Indonesians are much more familiar and much more comfortable with the digital economy, the TikTok generation. And there is a movement in Indonesia to try to get agriculture to be more appealing. But it’s going to be—it’s a challenge. And I think, as we go from 8 billion to 9 billion to 10 billion, it’s going to be a bigger challenge. So how do we keep the rural population in the rural areas, right, producing the food?
OK. So that’s—sorry, it’s a long—a long answer.
GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: Thank you.
Niels, do you want to say something?
NIELS TROST: Yeah. Thank you, Pak Hashim. Thank you, Gaurav.
I think we heard a lot about how we need to solve the food crisis and address the food insecurity in future, and whether that is through technology or, like Pak Hashim said, getting the TikTok generation interested in the agricultural sector. I think we also need to look at solutions that we can implement today.
You know, I happen to be in the fortunate position—or unfortunate, maybe, today. My company’s active in both energy and agricultural commodities. And we see—and we spoke about this a lot now—we see a clear correlation between energy prices and food prices. It’s been said by several people. We also see a clear correlation between increasing food prices, a shortage of food, and how that leads to uprisings and destabilization of our economies and our democracies. So we do have a responsibility to address that.
Now, food security, in my view, at the end of the day means food supply. We need to do something about increasing the supply and keeping the supply that we have today flowing to the market. And that brings us to the question of: How can we get the actors in the industry to all work together? We have practical problems today that we need to address.
The other day, General Clark and myself, we looked at supplying rice to an East African country. Everything is lined up, the transportation and everything, but we face an issue. That particular African country cannot open letters of credit. There is no financing available. And I think that’s an issue that we really need to address.
You know, my company exports corn from Ukraine and wheat from Russia, but we face a practical problem. We’d like to bring this wheat to Sudan, to Yemen, to Uganda. Some of our friends from Uganda and Zimbabwe and DRC are here. We face a very practical solution. The ship owners do not want to load grain and wheat from Russia. The banks do not want to finance it. So it means that we have to finance it ourselves, and that brings us to a certain limitation. We can only do so much with our own funding.
And that’s the problem we face today. It’s great to talk about future solutions, but today we have a solution already. And that means we need to get the industry actors to recognize that we all need to work together, that we need to make some difficult decisions. You know, Treasury, the US government, has been very clear: the oil and the food needs to flow to the market. There are no sanctions on food and energy exports from Russia. But yet, the industry is self-sanctioning, and that has contributed to the shortage that we—that we see today. I think that’s an issue that we really need to address.
And I hope that in the next two or three days we can all come to an understanding that we need to make the difficult decision—even though maybe politically we don’t like it—but from a practical aspect we need to say we need the food and the energy to continue to flow. How do we do that? By getting the ship owners, the banks, the insurance companies to recognize that we have a bigger responsibility than—how can I say—our morals, our moral ethics.
We have—maybe we—the biggest victim in all of this is, for example, Africa. We haven’t spoken a lot about Africa. Every barrel of oil that now goes to Europe because Europe can pay these higher prices, every grain—cargo of grain that goes to Europe because Europe can afford to pay these higher prices does not go to Africa. That is an issue that we need to address, and we can only address that if we get the industry to accept that we need to finance these cargoes, we need to insure these cargoes. The ship owners need to be willing to go to the Black Sea ports.
That’s one thing that I’d like to throw into the group for us to think about.
Another aspect that I think we need to recognize is that food and energy, as has been said many times now, are related. We need to address the high energy prices. Again, prices are dictated by supply and demand, so we need to do something about increasing the supply. The quickest way to bring prices down is to increase supply. It’s very simple.
How do we do that? By finding a mechanism to facilitate increasing oil exports. The G-7 community has come up with the idea of maybe facilitating supply by introducing a price cap, and I think it’s—it will be an interesting discussion to see if there are maybe better alternatives to a price cap. There’s all kinds of reasons why price caps may not necessarily be the solution. And I think it’ll be—it’ll be good to see over the next couple of days if there are people in this room that can come up with better alternatives to a price cap.
I think I’d like to leave it at this for now.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Niels, thank you very, very much for that.
Well, I want to just reiterate what I said at the very top, is that while we’re sort of going around the room kind of picking people, I do want—if anybody does have a question, please do—or wants to make a comment—please do feel free to raise your hand and I’d be happy to recognize you.
Oh, General Clark.
GEN. CLARK: At the risk of coming in again, I want to thank Niels for his very practical comments because what we have to, I hope, come out of this session with are the specific ideas that we’re going to ask the G20 to take account of and hold nations accountable for.
What the crisis in Ukraine—what Russia’s invasion has shown is that the world has changed today. A nation cannot invade another nation and jeopardize the food security for the entire world. It’s simply impermissible and we need to say that very clearly.
But we also have to go to the captains of finance and industry and say it’s no longer business as usual. It’s not simply about your fiduciary responsibilities to your investors. As Niels was saying, there’s a higher—this is what government should be about. Government should be about regulating, helping, foreseeing issues, and setting the conditions in which the private sector can work to maximize its profits within those constraints. And those constraints need to be modernized because we’re in a total global system here on food security. We’re just seeing the first indication of it.
So geopolitically, just to follow on something Peter was saying, in the United States—and I’m sure in Asia—people are very concerned about the future of Taiwan. Now, what could happen with Taiwan, shipping the South China Sea, where a third of the world’s commerce goes through? Imagine what the impact of that will be on global food security.
So I think, you know, it’s a wakeup call now between—in this war in Ukraine. It’s a wakeup call for the international community to really look at the consequences of globalization, of how it’s affected each of us. And it’s no longer sufficient, in my view, to say, well, it’s up to the private sector. We’ll let the Rothschilds decide, you know, how much credit they’re going to give to the Prussians on whether they’re going to get to invade France again. No. We’re past the eighteenth and nineteenth century. This is the whole point of global governance. We’ve got to move toward a greater appreciation of responsibilities.
Now, I hope—and, Niels, building on what you—we’ll get other people here who are the experts to come up with their specific suggestions so we can take this forward and have something the G20 can really sink its teeth into on food security. Thank you.
ADAM SCHWARZ: General Clark, thank you for those remarks.
I did promise to get back to some of the kind of agricultural innovations that are—that are happening and some of the—some of the very exciting ones to deal or be a contributor to meeting the challenge of food security. Bakur Kvezereli and Erez Fait are both sort of in this space. And, Erez, maybe I could ask you to start.
BAKUR KVEZERELI: OK. I will start. I’m Bakur Kvezereli, founder of Ztractor. It’s a Silicon Valley startup.
I would say, like, we need to invest more in startups. One way to approach the technology, because startups have an advantage over the corporations to implement innovation and innovate, as we don’t have a switch in cost. We don’t have existing business model. We don’t need to adopt our business model. We are starting these companies from scratch and we have an advantage over the corporations to introduce smarter solutions, let’s say.
Another thing I would like to mention is that, you know, we are building autonomous electric tractors for agriculture. We want to build 25,000 tractors a year coming—starting from 2025 and build—on top of the tractors, build a network which will connect these tractors where we will be able to collect real-time data. And the real-time data, we see the benefits of real-time data in industries like aviation. Aviation is much safer, much more predictable with the real-time data collection. We see that real-time data in the postal and mailing services, which is convenience and efficiency and transparency. And we see the real-time data in weather forecasting, right? We believe that the future of—I mean, we can fix many problems in agriculture field by introducing real-time data collection from the field, which is from tractors, from weather stations in the field, and so on. In this way, we can—it can serve as early alert system. We can predict the future of yield. We can predict the crisis. We can predict the outbreak of the different pests and insects and so on.
I think focusing on startups can be one angle of not completely solving this problem, but addressing the problems we are facing today. Thank you.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Thank you, Bakur.
Erez, over to you, please.
EREZ FAIT: Good afternoon. So far, we heard about the problems. I would like to talk about solutions.
So we started about six years ago with developing autonomous system that irrigate the fertigate the crops based on the crops’ needs. You can think like a baby incubator. And because we believe that food security means self-independent production in every country, because we found out that the logistics become an issue—COVID, war, et cetera.
And we have a later-on session, but I would like to mention that the only way that we think to overcome the issue of education and the issue of knowledge is by technology. And I can say that the minister of defense left, but he was in action about three years ago and we establish a farm in Indonesia before the COVID. It was implemented during the COVID, remote control. It’s still active and it’s produced more than 30 type of crops, indoor/outdoor, with great results. In parallel, we work in California, where there is drought, and we manage to grow things with no fertilizer and less water, et cetera.
So we think that the way of solving the issue of agriculture is produce locally all the things that agriculture needs. And this will shorten the cycle of logistics because cost of logistics and distributing the knowledge to the remote area, like Mr. Hashim said, is the main issue. And we are working here, together with the farmers, together with the universities, how to adopt this technology and bring back the youth to the circle of the production of the food. And the idea, especially in countries around the Equator like Indonesia, is to grow food all year round independent of the rain and other climate issues. This is something that later on we can share to see how we can help solving these kind of challenges.
Thank you.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Erez, thank you very much for that.
We’ve got about 10 or 15 minutes left, and I want to just sort of encourage anybody who has a—has a comment to raise your hand. Before I could say it, ma’am, over to you, please. Can we have a mic in the middle of the left-hand row, please?
Q: Thank you very much and good afternoon. My name’s Gwen Mwaba from the African Export and Import Bank.
And I’d really just like to first start by commending Niels for those comments that you made, which were top of mind for me. We are, indeed, facing serious issues with payments to Russia, where grains and fertilizer are coming from. And even though the sanctions clarify that they’re exclusions, the self-sanctioning is a real problem. So, for example, an African development finance institution such as the Afreximbank, if we try to make payments to Russia through our Western correspondent banks, they freeze those payments. So I’m wondering whether there’s need to emphasize or clarify these sanctions, or for those sanctioning countries to issue notices which we can share with our Western correspondent banks so that they don’t exclude payments that are related to food and fertilizers. That’s one point.
And then the second point is, again, the capacity of financing to African counterparties has been curtailed or canceled altogether, as is usually the case when there’s a crisis. And I think somebody had mentioned that it’s not business as usual. So it’s important that Western financial institutions in times of crisis like this don’t pull back things like confirmation lines, because the price of energy and of fertilizer and grains has gone up, trebled and quadrupled, so that means there’s more financing capacity in a—in a trade flow where there’s already an existing trade financing gap of billions of dollars. So we need that support from the West.
And then my final point was really even as we solve the problems—the immediate problems to get grains to these vulnerable countries, what do we do about the medium to long term? I think we also need to encourage investment into Africa for more production of food, but in order to produce more food you need fertilizer. So perhaps investors should also look at partnering to set up fertilizer production plants on the African continent so that there’s more or less self—dependence on other nations, and I think in the longer term there will be more food security for the continent. Thank you.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Thank you very much. I’m sure that’s a topic that will be picked up in the following session. Thank you. Thank you for raising it.
Matt Kroenig, you—I think you raised your hand. Matt from the Atlantic Council.
MATTHEW KROENIG: Great. Well, thank you very much, Adam, and this has been a fascinating conversation. I’m learning a lot.
I wanted to offer a framework for thinking about this challenge because as I’m listening it’s occurring to me that food security is not unique. A lot of these challenges we’re facing are the same challenges we’re facing with semiconductors, with energy, with PPE, with rare-earth elements. And it seems to me that the common theme is that after the end of the Cold War we built a global economy designed for efficiency, not for security. And that worked in a globalized, frictionless post-Cold War world, but now that geopolitics has returned we realize that doesn’t work. We need secure supply chains. And so, you know, when you look at, you know, energy, Europeans were too dependent on Russia, and in the post-Cold War world that worked. Now it doesn’t. We were dependent on China for PPE. That no longer makes sense. Dependent on China for semiconductors.
And it seems the same when you look at the global food supply. You know, 75 percent of human calories come from nine food sources. We have a few breadbaskets like Russia and Ukraine producing. The rest of the world is importing.
And so as we look towards solutions, it seems to me like some of the solutions here may be similar to the solutions in other areas. Diversifying supply chains. So instead of, you know, importing everything more local production—millet in India, urea fertilizer in Africa, the diversity in terms of more biodiversity.
So I’m not an expert in this area but I’m seeing patterns, and I think maybe some of the solutions we’re looking at in other areas of reshoring and allyshoring may make sense here as well.
Thanks.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Thank you very much.
You know, as we sort of begin to—without stealing too much thunder from the session to come, begin to think through what is it that we want this conference to contribute to the findings of the G20, perhaps I could ask the ambassador of Ukraine to Indonesia if you had some thoughts as to what—from Ukraine’s perspective, what would you like the G20 to have to say on this food security issue, which will come up in a couple days?
Thank you.
VASYL HAMIANIN: Thank you very much.
Good afternoon, everybody. Actually, I was not preparing to speak in this panel. But since you asked, right, I’ll just make some very, very brief remarks on what I think on that.
First of all, I would believe that the—if the you talk about the crisis—right, food crisis, whatever, logistic crisis—first of all, we have to identify the roots of the crisis to deal with it efficiently, and, otherwise, it will be like, you know, giving remedy to a person—instead of giving remedy to a person, like, contaminated with something just give painkillers, and the crisis will develop and the human body eventually dies.
So instead of giving painkillers we must give the proper remedy after identifying what is the key problem, and we know what is the key problem for all the crisis. To put it in other words, rather than repeating that it is the Russian aggression, I would say that this is the global crisis of trust and diplomacy.
We failed. United Nations failed, like League of Nations many years ago. So, now, after U.N. is paralyzed, it’s very important for the world to identify the group or, whatever, global leaders—global leaders—who can work out the instruments and mechanisms of how to deal with the problem efficiently and from the roots—starting from the roots, right.
So I see—I hope, right, it’s not—it’s something I can know. But it’s my hope that leaders of the world must act like leaders. They not only have the rights to decide the destiny for the world economy and society and the directions for development.
They also have duty to protect security, peace, development, prosperity of the world, and this is a heavy duty. And in this situation, the world leaders—what I mean, acting by leaders? They don’t have to just discuss and trying to see—you know, give the painkillers. Let’s talk about the food crisis and don’t talk about the war. No.
If you act like leaders, you have to identify the problem and take immediate measures to nip it in the bud. To clean the body of a virus this is essential.
That’s why—by the way, I was pleasantly surprised that this food security—Global Food Security Forum is on the auspices of Atlantic Council and the minister of defense, which is very meaningful.
If you want to resolve the crisis, like, you know, grain deliveries, as my colleague and friend, I would say, Ms. Kira, mentioned, we are facing demining of the lands, we are facing the rebuilding of infrastructure, and we are facing the physical problem of protection of the farmers and of the deliveries, right. And this is the point where we apply something real. We apply the convoys for protecting the vessels, we apply the demining, and we apply the air defense to protect the actual siloes and warehouses from the attacks, right.
So this is very meaningful, and this is the point where the practical instruments can be applied. I’m in the military. Unfortunately, living in the 21st century, the—having the small world where all the processes are happening, like, fast. Anything happens, someone sneezes in the Latin America, someone, you know, coughs immediately in Australia, right, it’s like—it’s seconds, right.
So whatever we do it will influence the world, not just the region or not just whatever country. That’s, basically, what I said. Act as leaders and try to be practical, not just theoretical.
Thank you very much.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Ambassador Hamianin, I thank you very much for those remarks, and sorry to put you on the spot there
Just I wanted to give the last word, again—actually the same question but to some of our Indonesian academic colleagues who are here with us today in terms of your view of what you’d like to see come out of this conference in terms of food security from an Indonesian perspective.
And, again, I’m putting people on the spot here, which I apologize, but I want to at least give the opportunity to Rachmat Pambudy at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture or Eni Harmayani at Gadjah Mada University, the faculty of ag technology.
Again, don’t feel obliged, but if either of you would like to comment we would be happy to hear from you.
Is there—they’re not taking that opportunity because they’re not here. So we’ll pass here.
Oh, yes, please?
ENI HARMAYANI: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Eni Harmayani from Gadjah Mada University.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Thank you.
ENI HARMAYANI: I think, for the past years, there has been significant progress in boosting agricultural production.
However, this has hardly reduced the number of hungry people and malnutrition. So I think eradication of hunger and malnutrition is an achievable goal if community at the local efforts are empowered. And, also, as you asked what is the output of this G20 in terms of food security, I think the international community must support the ability of each region to feed itself and to invest in local production so the problem of globalization can be minimized because the regional area can produce their food by itself.
So support by international community for the region to feed itself, I think, it’s very important, and combination of technology and also local wisdom is very important because human is the center of the development.
Thank you very much.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Thank you very much.
I’m going to now give the last word to go Gaurav. Maybe start us off, and I’d like you to maybe give us a few concluding remarks from your end.
Thank you. Oh, please, sir, can we get a mic? I understand we do have a few more minutes. Thank you.
KASDI SUBAGYONO: Thank you very much. I’m Kasdi from the Ministry of Agriculture. Yeah.
So I would like, because one colleague has raised about the result of the Agriculture Working Group here in Bali for several months ago. So the G20 Agriculture Working Group just concluded and come up with twenty-two paragraphs of the communiqué, but, unfortunately, only one communiqué—one paragraph is not consensus by all the members regarding the geopolitical tension of Russia and Ukraine.
But, substantially, in fact, that we are going to come up with three priority issue.
First is how we can promote sustainable and resilient agri food system within the situation is not, you know, unpredictable here and in global situation. So agri food system, dynamic behavior, we have to—concern on that.
So, secondly, is about the—how we can promote an open, fair, transparent, nondiscriminative of the agriculture trade, and this is all member agreed that all the countries, especially who the center of the food production, is not allowed to restrict of export. This is very important because if you do that, so the country within the very insecurity in food there will be troubles. This all member agree with the export restriction should be avoided.
The third is how to promote innovation. Everybody talk about the technology promotion but we are focused on agri partnership, especially for millennial people, that’s just mentioned by Dr. Hashim that is right here in Indonesia. But we are now start how to train the millennial people in term of the technology because they are very friendly in the technology. This is why transformation of agri food system is very important.
So in terms of experience in Indonesia here, so we are now facing the global food crisis. So Indonesia start with a policy and program how to secure on that. First, how to increase the production capacity of your food. This is very important, especially for us here in Indonesia. We still imported 11 million tons of wheat from all over the world—11 million tons. So that with 9 million tons of food, 2 million tons for feed.
So it’s very, very, very—and one very—I’m very glad to see that one of our colleagues raised about the cassava. So we are now focused on cassava, on sagu, on sorghum. Should be substitute from the how big of food that wheat, for example, to import it. So we substituted to reduce of our import on the wheat.
So, secondly, is how to develop of substitutions of meat, for example, so not only of cattle but we also develop of poultry and so on. So that means that we have to try to find another alternative if you don’t have any source of food on this country. So that is very important.
The third priority is about, well, in terms of the conclusion of Agriculture Working Group in Bali that export restrictions should be avoided, so we try to have increasing production of any of commodity because we have very diversified commodity here—horticulture, food crop… and the livestock as well.
So we try to have—when we have more we have to export it. So this is the—so we have five strategies here in Indonesia. So especially one that I mentioned already—how to increase our capacity production, promote the local best food diversification. It’s not only rice because now we’re increasing our production of rice. We have surplus already. Ten point two million ton we have stored of rice right now. Right now. So we have tried to export it from that.
So, secondly, is how to promote—sorry, to strengthen food reserve and logistic system. This is very important. Certainly, modernization of agriculture, as everybody mentioned about the mechanization, machinery is very important because you can reduce losses.
Here in Indonesia losses is 11 percent to 12 percent of our harvest. If you do mechanization, we can reduce until 5 percent. So, I mean, you raise of 7 percent. Our production is 54 million tons of rice. So, I mean—so when compared to the rice that is… yeah, we have 32 million ton. Every year, we surplus about 2 million ton.
So this is why our focus is how to increase production capacity. Diversify product. It’s not only the rice but also the other source of food.
Thank you very much.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Kasdi, thank you very much. It’s a very useful way to end this session and move us on to the next one with that emphasis on food resilience. Thank you very much.
Gaurav, did you want to just close it off briefly?
Thank you.
GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: Thank you. Hello?
ADAM SCHWARZ: Got you. There you go.
GAURAV SRIVASTAVA: Thank you.
I think the underlying theme of the conversation so far is we’re all connected. Every—all these events—food security, energy security—is all connected to, ultimately, national security and the stability of human beings. And the ambassador from Ukraine, he—you know, he very well described the plight in Ukraine because of the conflict.
We can take it one step further and remember that while the—we see the physical impacts of what’s going on these are multi-generational impacts because once there is weapons on that land that land may not ever be able to plant again. They may not be able to grow any more crops again.
And it goes back to remembering that countries in Asia, countries in Africa, their challenges are immediate and we need to regulate those, and the risk is if it is not regulated the business that is—that is will go underground and that creates the—a larger issue, which is it puts money in the hands of bad state actors like, you know, Iran and Venezuela, and we definitely do not want that.
But I’m—but thank you so much for shedding the light on this conversation, and I think as we talk through this I hope we can find a solution. And it is important to remember that we are the custodians of blessings and be able to pass it on from one generation to the next.
So thank you very much.
ADAM SCHWARZ: Thank you, Gaurav.
Well, that brings us to the end of Panel I of the Global Food Security Conference.
Image: Experts discuss today’s challenges for food security at the Atlantic Council’s Global Food Security Forum on November 12, 2022.
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