India has been strongly flagging the consequences of the Ukraine conflict on food, energy and fertilisers which have impacted the developing countries
The United Nations fund for agricultural development has lauded India for reviving focus on millets and exporting 1.8 million tonnes of wheat to 18 countries that faced an acute shortage of food last year in the wake of the war in Ukraine.
Alvaro Lario, the president of the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD), also said that India's G20 presidency has the potential to "transform" the global food systems as some of New Delhi's priority areas are in sync with that of the UN body.
In an exclusive interview to media, Lario, a noted development finance expert, said the Indian expertise could support the agricultural and rural development in other countries in the Global South.
"We also appreciate India's exports of wheat - 1.8 million tonnes - to 18 countries facing an acute shortage last year in the wake of the war in Ukraine," he said.
Lario was in India to attend the G20 agriculture ministers meeting.
The IFAD is a specialised agency of the UN that has been focusing on financing projects in various poor and vulnerable countries to help them battle poverty, hunger and food insecurity.
"India has also shown thoughtful leadership in South-South cooperation. I very much appreciate, for instance, India's focus on the revival of millets," he said.
"We've seen that millets are an important crop for farmers to adapt to climate change, given that they're drought resistant, and to ensure nutrition in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the world," Lario added.
The IFAD president said India can play a global role in its capacity as the G20 president to transform global food systems.
"India's G20 presidency has the potential to transform food systems. A food system includes all the aspects of feeding and nourishing people: growing, harvesting, packaging, processing, transporting, marketing and consuming food," he said.
"Food systems have been shaken to the core in the last few years --cumulative shocks have reversed years of progress and exposed their weaknesses," he added.
The Covid-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine and climate change have severely impacted the global food security that has triggered a food crisis in the African countries.
India has been strongly flagging the consequences of the Ukraine conflict on food, energy and fertilisers which have impacted the Global South or the developing countries
"The war in Ukraine has led to a humanitarian crisis. It has led to increasing food and fuel prices globally, which in turn is impacting the world's most vulnerable people," Lario said.
"In addition to limiting the provision of grains, it is limiting affordable access to energy and fertilisers. This has been catastrophic for the ability of small-scale farmers - who grow at least one-third of the world's food -to keep producing food and also their ability to access markets," he said.
Ukraine has been a major global supplier of wheat and the Russian invasion of the country resulted in a global food crisis as the supplies were badly hit.
Lario said the "ripple effects" of the war in Ukraine, compounded with other ongoing crises, are a reminder that there is a need to invest heavily in medium to long-term development to avoid being caught again in a similar "costly crisis".
"The key areas identified by the Indian G20 presidency for food systems transformation - ensuring global food security and nutrition; promoting climate-smart agriculture; building inclusive and pro-poor value chains; and using digital technology to create smart solutions -- are the same areas IFAD is concerned about," he said.
Lario also complimented India's overall success in becoming a food surplus country from a food deficit one.
"India has long been an important partner for IFAD -- it is a founding member, and our largest borrower, and also one of our top 15 donors. The impressive progress India has made, going from a food deficit to a food surplus country, can clearly serve as an example for countries facing similar issues," he said.
The IFAD president said at New Delhi's invitation, IFAD has supported India to strengthen its focus and share its experience on local production systems and building markets and resilience.
"It is estimated that we need between USD 300 billion to USD 350 billion per year to revamp food systems. This is not even 3 per cent of the money wasted through the inefficiencies of the current global food systems each year," Lario said.
"It is less than 0.5 per cent of the global GDP. The IFAD's expertise and long-standing partnership with governments can help make public investment more efficient, and food systems more attractive to private investors," he said.
The IFAD president also noted that small-scale farmers produce up to 70 per cent of the food consumed in low and middle-income countries and they often bear the brunt of climate change and other natural disasters.
"We need climate finance both to mitigate emissions and to help economies adapt to the change. The current pace of action is not enough to meet global commitments under the Paris Agreement.
"Between 2017 and 2018, small-scale producers received only USD 10 billion, or 1.7 per cent of climate finance.," he added.