Russia-Ukraine war: UNCTAD warns of food insecurity crises in Africa

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Least developed countries in Africa which are heavily dependent on wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine could face food insecurity crises, the United Nations has warned.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is projecting the Russia-Ukraine war to aggravate food insecurity in the continent, especially in North Africa and East Africa which are already struggling with internal conflicts and precarious food security situations with no option to replace the dwindling imports from the eastern European states.

“There is limited scope to replace imports from the Russian Federation and Ukraine through intra-African trade, as the regional supply of wheat is comparatively small, and many parts of the continent lack efficient transport infrastructures and storage capacity.

In this context, and considering country-specific shocks, climate change, export restrictions and stockpiling, there might be a potential for food insecurity crises in some regions, especially if increased costs of fertilizers and other energy-intensive inputs negatively impact the next agricultural season,” warns UNCTAD on the impact on trade and development of the war in Ukraine report.

According to UNCTAD, the food security in Africa will be further worsened by the rising fertilizer prices as costs of urea and phosphate, two major components of fertilizer had already risen by 30% and 4%, respectively, by the end of 2021.

Source: UNCTAD

Between 2018 and 2020, the continent imported wheat worth $3.7 billion from the Russian Federation and another $1.4 billion from Ukraine.

Imports from Russia accounted for 32% of total African wheat imports while Ukraine accounted for 12%.

“This rapidly evolving situation is alarming for developing countries, and especially for African and least developed countries, some of which are particularly exposed to the war in Ukraine and its effect on trade costs, commodity prices and financial markets. The risk of civil unrest, food shortages and inflation-induced recessions cannot be discounted, particularly given the fragile state of the global economy and the developing world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” UNCTAD stated.

Kenya sources 44% of its wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine.

Combined, Russia and Ukraine produce 27% of the world’s wheat, 53% of sunflower oil and seeds and 23% of barley.

Source: UNCTAD

Besides food, prices of fuels are also expected to remain elevated as the situation persists given that the Russian Federation is the second-largest oil exporter in the world, selling about 5 million barrels of oil daily.

As a result of the rising crude oil prices triggered by the war, Kenya’s Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) on Monday hiked a litre of super petrol and diesel by Kshs. 5.

  

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