New Telegraph

February 23, 2024

Food shortage plunges Africa into crisis

Panicum miliaceum is scientific name of Proso Millet cereal grain. Also known as Broomcorn Millet, Painco (portuguese) and Mijo (spanish). Person with grains in hand. Macro. Whole food. (Panicum miliaceum is scientific name of Proso Millet cereal grai

Some African leaders recently traveled to Sochi, Russia, to hold a crucial meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia, over the adverse effects of the Ukraine war, especially on Russia’s decision to prevent export of grain, which is severely causing food crisis in Nigeria, and many others in the continent. TAIWO HASSAN reports

No one ever predicted that the invasion of Ukraine’s territory by Russia troops would have devastating effects on global food supply and energy products consumption. However, the aftermath of the war is already leaving a huge food austerity on Africa as a continent as over 40 per cent of wheat consumed in Africa usually comes from Russia and Ukraine. Consequently, the outcome has caused suffering in many African countries as export of cereals and fertiliser from these two countries has become impossible, resulting to exponential food prices in Africa.

No doubt, many African countries believe they were victims of the war in Ukraine and Russia as they stressed the need for the war to end in order to help ease their suffering in the areas of grain supply. But Ukraine’s ports in the Black Sea have been largely blocked for exports since the conflict began.

Kyiv and its allies blame Moscow for the port blockage, which Ukraine has manned to prevent a Russian amphibious assault. The failure to open those ports will result in famine, as a grain shortage could affect 1.4 billion people and trigger mass migration.

The war has exacerbated already existing shortages in Africa caused by bad harvests and insecurity. Food prices have shot up across the continent since Russia invaded Ukraine 100 days ago, pushing a large population towards hunger. For instance, a report from the Head of the World Food Programme, Mike Dunford, said that over 80 million people were acutely food insecure, acutely hungry in Africa — up from about 50 million people this time last year. Chad has declared a national food emergency. A third of the population needs food aid, according to the United Nations (UN) and government has appealed for international assistance.

Russia meeting

Speaking on the African Union leaders meeting with Vladimir Putin, in Sochi, Russia, Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, disclosed that Russian leader had promised to ease the export of cereals and fertiliser, but gave no details. Sall told Putin to “be aware that our countries, even if they were far from the theatre of action, had become the victims of the crisis.”

He pleaded on behalf of other countries in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. However, Putin assured that Russia was ready to guarantee the safe export of Ukrainian grain via ports on the Azov and Black seas it controls. He said that the best solution would be to lift sanctions on Belarus, a close Russian ally, so the grain could be shipped that way. Putin added that he was always on the side of Africa, but didn’t explicitly mention the continent’s food crisis. Like many African countries, Senegal has avoided taking sides in the conflict and the Senegalese leader also said food supplies should be “outside” the West’s sanctions on Russia. He said he had made this point when he spoke to the European Council earlier in the week.

Ukraine conflict

In his own submission, President Muhammadu Buhari, said the effects of COVID-19 and the conflict in Ukraine were wake-up calls on the Africa continent to collaborate for sustainable food production. Buhari emphasised the need for African countries to collaborate for the common cause of achieving self sufficiency in food production.

He said: “We also need to leverage technology to build stronger systems for the protection of all. Our legislations across the continent must be designed to forge technology and technology innovations. This has been encouraged in Nigeria and since 2015, there are at least seven high tech companies valued at over one billion dollars each. “Many of our countries have also seen the rise of some of these kind of companies and some are even licensed in our different countries.

But we must look for continent wide legislation that makes the world. I think it is an important time for the legislature to react to what we are seeing such as phenomenon growth in tech companies and innovations because that is the only way we can leverage technology to leapfrog our development and economic recovery efforts. “Africa’s post COVID recovery must leverage the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (Af- CFTA). AfCFTA is a unique opportunity for us to consolidate Africa’s enormous potentials through which we will create millions of jobs, reduce Africa’s import dependency, boost intra Africa trade and export and strengthen cross border tie and trade relations. The opportunities are mind boggling, but they include the magic word — collaborations.

“The pandemic also induced serious challenge of food security and food inflation, which is expected to rise above 12 per cent this year. The pandemic also expose the need for collaboration and networking. So, Africa must sustain cross border supply network that will connect global and domestic markets. The agricultural sector is key towards ensuring productivity to improve our GDP. So, we must improve our agricultural production. We must produce our own food and reduce import dependency. “The conflict in Ukraine has shown us clearly that we don’t have to be dependent on other countries.

Speaking further, the Nigerian president added thst the Russian war in Ukraine has added another challenge to what we are facing in Africa. With the dependence of African countries on Russia and Ukraine, the war disruption has added to looming food crisis in Africa. To him, Nigeria and others in the continent should be decoupled from food import dependency. He stressed that Africa must feed itself and do so with pride, adding that economic recovery must be felt in day to day lives of people. According to him, the recovery must create jobs and recover jobs lost, focus on MSMEs; the recovery must focus on youths and tackle debts of Africa. He noted: “The recovery will require close partnership with executive arm and legislative arm of government. Regardless of the challenges facing our country, be the solution providers, drive for an economic recovery that’s felt by all.”

Millers’ ordeals

However, there has been a grain supply gap in the country since the beginning of the year. Nigerian millers are in need of 6.5 million metric tonnes of wheat valued at $1.61 billion to meet their production demand in 2022. Currently, the price of the grain has surged to $424.76 per tonne in the United States from $202, following the Russia and Ukraine war. United States, Russia, Canada, Ukraine and Australia are the major suppliers of wheat to Nigeria. It was gathered that Crown Flour Mill Limited, Dangote Flour Mills Plc, Flour Mills Of Nigeria Plc, Honeywell Flour Mill, Life Flour Mill Limited, Nigerian Eagle Flour Mills Ltd, Mercury Mills Limited and Standard Flour Mills Limited depend on wheat importation to produce bread and pasta such as spaghetti, macaron and other confectioneries in the country. Finding revealed that shortage of wheat has threatened some of the firms that relied on imports. It was believed that the shortfall could be as high as about 13.5 million tonnes of wheat or 23 per cent of the expected exports in 2022.

According to Index Mundi, a trade portal, Nigerian importers have booked $6.5 million tonnes of wheat from Russia and United States, but how to bring the commodity to the country has been adversely affected by the on-going crisis in Russia, where the price is lower.

Before the outbreak of the war, Nigeria imported durum wheat worth N123.96 billion ($297.8 million) from Russia between January and September 2021, according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Finding from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)’s shipping position revealed that only three vessels berthed with 144,683 tonnes or 2.22 per cent of the grain in May, 2022. The shipping data noted that Desert Virtue and Equinox Agnandoussa offloaded 53,899 tonnes and 55,784 tonnes of wheat at the Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited (ABTL), Lagos Port.

It added that JosepDam terminal at Tin Can Island Port took delivery of 35,000 tonnes from MV S Neptune in the same period. The data further revealed that only five vessels berthed at the Lagos Port Complex at Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited and Tincan Island Port with 213,842 tonnes in March, 2022. Four of the vessels offloaded 163,842 tonnes of the grain at ABTL, while a vessel discharged 50,000 tonnes at Tincan Port. At ABTL Desert Osprey and Garnet Eternity discharged 45,832 tonnes and 53,461 tonnes respectively, while Desert Grace berthed with 34,919 tonnes and Zola with 29,630 tonnes as Arch Gabriel offloaded 50,000 tonnes at Josepdam terminal, Tincan Island Port. Despite the anchor borrow programme of CBN, finding by New Telegraph revealed that local production of the grain is 1.4 per cent of the 6.54 million tonnes demand for 2022.

Last line

There is urgent need for African leaders to increase investments in the agricultural sector to boost production, especially through smallholder farmers to achieve food sufficiency and productivity in the continent in short and long terms.

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