Ukrainian war fuels rising food prices and hunger in Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Now, in the Somali capital, Ayan Hassan Abdirahman buys the daily breakfast of wheat flour for her 11 children at the cost of a few months ago. twice.

Almost all wheat sold in Somalia comes from Ukraine and Russia, which have stopped exporting through the Black Sea since Moscow started the war in its neighbouring country on 24 February. The timing couldn’t be worse: An estimated 13 million people in the Horn of Africa region face acute hunger due to persistent drought, the United Nations has warned.

Abdirahman has been trying to substitute another more accessible grain, sorghum, in her flatbread. However, inflation means the price of the cooking oil she still needs to prepare has skyrocketed – a jar that once cost $16 is now selling for $45 on the market in Mogadishu.

“The cost of living is so high these days that you can’t even afford flour and oil,” she said.

Haji Abdi Dhiblawe, a businessman who imports wheat flour into Somalia, fears the situation will only get worse: Containers of grain from elsewhere are also looming.

“The Somalis have nowhere to grow wheat, and we’re not even familiar with how to grow it,” he said. “Our main concern now is what will happen to our future when our current supply runs out.”

Another 18 million people face acute hunger in the Sahel, part of Africa just below the Sahara Desert, where farmers are enduring the worst agricultural production in more than a decade. The U.N.’s World Food Program said food shortages could intensify when the off-season comes in late summer.

“Acute hunger is soaring to unprecedented levels, and the global situation continues to deteriorate. Conflict, the climate crisis, COVID-19, and soaring food and fuel costs have created the perfect storm—and now we’re putting disaster on top of the war in Ukraine. disaster,” WFP executive director David Beasley warned earlier this month.

UNICEF said the cost of food therapy for even malnourished children could rise by 16% in the next six months due to the war in Ukraine and pandemic-related devastation.

Between 2018 and 2020, African countries imported 44 percent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine, according to UN data. The African Development Bank has reported a 45 percent rise in the price of wheat on the continent, making everything from couscous in Mauritania to fried doughnuts sold in Congo more expensive for customers.

“Africa has no control over production or logistics chains and is completely at the mercy of the situation,” said Senegalese President McKisal, who has said he will travel to Russia and Ukraine to discuss prices.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week pressed the West to lift sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine war, in an attempt to shift responsibility for the growing world food crisis from Russia to the West, which is unable to ship millions of tons food has exacerbated the crisis. At the same time as other agricultural products were attacked.

The Kremlin said Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow was “ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis by exporting grain and fertilizers, provided that politically motivated restrictions in the West are lifted”.

Western officials have denied Russia’s claims. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken noted that food, fertilizers and seeds are exempt from sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and many other countries.

In Cameroon, baker Sylvester Ako says bread prices have risen 40 percent due to a lack of wheat imports, and he has seen his daily customers drop from 300 a day to just 100. He has fired three of his seven employees and fears that unless something changes, he will have to shut down his Yaoundé business entirely.

“A 50-kilogram (110-pound) bag of wheat now sells for $60 — up from about $30 — and the supply is erratic,” Ako said.

In addition to the shortage of wheat imports, the African Development Bank has warned that food production on the continent could fall by 20 percent as farmers have to pay 300 percent more for imported fertilizers.

The group said it plans to address these issues through a $1.5 billion program that will provide African farmers with certified seeds, fertilizers and other help. Reducing reliance on foreign imports is part of that strategy, but these economic transformations could take years, not months.

The Senegalese president says appetites can shift more quickly. He encouraged Africans to eat local grains that were once a staple of their diets.

“We also had to change our eating habits,” Sall said. “We gave up millet and started importing rice from Asia. Now we only know how to eat rice, and we don’t produce enough. We only know how to eat bread. We don’t produce wheat.”


Krista Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press reporters in Europe and Edwin Kindzeka Moki in Yaounde, Cameroon; Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal; Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro in Bunia, Congo, and Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana contributed to this report.


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