Move follows warning from head of UN World Food Programme about high prices leading to social unrest
The World Bank plans to spend $12bn (£9.6bn) to support low-income countries hit by shortages of food and fertilisers that have pushed prices higher since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sudan, where inflation has rocketed above 250%, is expected to be among the countries that will benefit from the initiative, which the Washington-based organisation said should alleviate shortages over the next 15 months.
The World Bank said the $12bn pledge would raise its overall commitment of unspent funds to $30bn, from a budget of $170bn, as it seeks to prevent low-income countries from being hit by famine and political unrest.
In recent days, the UN World Food Programme’s director has warned that war, extreme weather and Covid-19 are driving global food prices to levels “that will cause social unrest in some parts of the world”.
Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous country, has experienced a rise in inflation rise to a more modest 16%, though food inflation topped 18% last month, leading to calls for the government to increase support for low-income households.
The World Bank said new and existing projects would receive $30bn – covering areas such as innovative agriculture, water and irrigation schemes, and higher welfare payments to the poorest families.
Its president, David Malpass, said loans would allow farmers to fund investments in new methods of food production with lower use of fertiliser.
Governments that have reacted to the crisis by restricting exports of food – such as India – were castigated by Malpass for making the global situation worse. He said that to increase next season’s production, there needed to be lower trade barriers, a more efficient use of fertilisers, and “repurposing public policies and expenditures to better support farmers and output”.
Malpass urged governments “to make clear statements now of future output increases in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.
He added: “Countries should make concerted efforts to increase the supply of energy and fertiliser, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that block exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage unnecessary storage.”
David Beasley, the head of the UN World Food Programme, said: “If people can’t feed their children and their families, then the politics unsettles.”
Hit by high prices and supply disruptions, Beasley said the UN had been forced to ration food supplies to millions of people around the world.
“If we’re not there with a safety net programme, then the political extremists or whatever the case may be, will exploit that,” he said, adding: “Next thing you know, you’ve got riots, famine, destabilisation and then mass migration by necessity.”