US Treasury chief Yellen opens global meetings with plea for action on food crisis

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US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen opened a week of international meetings in Washington by calling on officials from the world’s largest economies to offer more help to low-income countries hit hardest by the disruption of global food supplies.

“We must step up financial assistance to address the impact on the most vulnerable, including through multilateral mechanisms like the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program,” she said Tuesday at a gathering of finance and agriculture ministers from Group of 20 countries.

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She also laid the blame for the emerging crisis squarely on Russia.

“Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine, including its blockade of ports and destruction of agricultural infrastructure, has disrupted global supply chains and food production,” Yellen said.

The remarks, the text of which was not made public, were reported by a Treasury official.

Russia was represented at the meeting by Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, who attended the gathering virtually, according to the ministry’s press service.

Officials from around the world are gathered in Washington this week for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The G-20 gathering was one of several ministerial-level sessions happening on the sidelines.

With Russian government representatives present, the US and its allies are expected to hammer their counterparts from Moscow with repeated condemnation over the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The IMF issued a report on September 29 warning that the world faces a crisis at least as severe as the food emergency that triggered political and social unrest across many developing countries in 2007-08.

The report said $50 billion was needed to address acute food insecurity this year.

Yellen urged countries not to impose food export restrictions and encouraged struggling with debt to seek relief through the G-20’s Common Framework, a program for case-by-case debt restructuring.

She also emphasized that US-led sanctions against Russia don’t target the production, transport, or sale of agricultural commodities, including fertilizer.

“We work diligently to fight overcompliance and urge all of you to make sure your relevant industries are aware that sanctions should not stand in the way of getting agricultural commodities to those who need them," she said.

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