NAIROBI, Kenya – The effects of the war in Ukraine have reverberated around the world, and this is particularly the case in Africa where the blockage of grain exports from Ukraine has fueled soaring wheat prices and exacerbated the hunger and starvation.
So civil servantsAid groups and wheat importers across Africa hailed Friday’s agreement to unblock grain exports to Ukraine, where war has led to grain shortages and rising food prices on the whole African continent.
“The noose was tightening, so the deal should help us breathe,” said Celestin Tawamba, managing director of La Pasta, the largest flour and pasta producer in West African country Cameroon.
The UN-brokered agreement between Russia and Ukraine is particularly important in 14 African countries which, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, depend on the two warring countries for half of their their wheat imports. One country, Eritrea, depends entirely on it.
But the deal will have limited impact in some other parts of Africa, where nations are grappling with internal political, economic and social crises that have also contributed to rising hunger and rising food prices. food,” said Nazanine Moshiri, an analyst at the International Crisis Group.
This is especially true of countries in East Africa, where the worst drought in four decades has decimated farms and livestock, dried up rivers and wells and killed hundreds of children.
A civil war in Ethiopia, political uncertainty in Sudan and conflict and terrorism in countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Somalia have prevented governments and aid agencies from reaching many people in need.
In Kenya, rising public debt and inflation have helped push up food prices, sparking street protests and widespread anger on social media in recent weeks.
With general elections looming on August 9, President Uhuru Kenyatta this week suspended taxes on imported maize and ordered a sharp reduction in the retail price of maize flour, an important staple.
During a visit to Kenya on Friday, Samantha Power, director of the US Agency for International Development, announced $255 million in emergency aid to the country.
Many African countries depend mainly on cereals such as maize, sorghum, millet and rice. But those who consume wheat have increasingly favored buying wheat from Russia in recent years because it is cheaper than grain from other countries, according to Hugo Depoix, the Parisian director of Cerealis, a grain trader who sells to a dozen African countries. .
Some West African countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon or Côte d’Ivoire are particularly exposed to disruptions in wheat exports from Russia. Governments have frozen the price of baguettes or flour in an effort to contain soaring wheat prices, which have jumped over the past two years from around $250 a ton in the summer of 2020 to $530. this spring.
Relief from soaring prices can take time. Mr. Tawamba, of the La Pasta company, estimated that it will take “two to three months at the earliest, until the cheaper wheat reaches us”.
The deal signed in Istanbul on Friday comes more than a month after African Union chairperson President Macky Sall of Senegal visited Russia to urge President Vladimir Putin to release much-needed grain .
The unblocking of grain exports is good news, but experts said it does not solve soaring fertilizer and fuel prices, which are also driven by the war in Ukraine and have affected food security.
In West Africa, where the planting season started in May and June for most cereals, the scarcity of affordable fertilizers due to the war could cause the region to lose a quarter of its production compared to the last year, according to an assessment of the bloc’s regional political office, the FAO and the World Food Programme.
In Somalia, where nearly half of the country’s 16 million people face food shortages, fertilizer prices have risen 75% since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, according to Tjada D’ Oyen McKenna, general manager of Mercy Corps.
“Today’s global food disaster goes well beyond the 20 million tonnes of grain blocked in Ukraine,” Ms McKenna said in an emailed statement.
Abdi Latif Dahir reported in Nairobi, Kenya, and Elian Peltier from Dakar, Senegal.