Looming catastrophic food crisis in Africa triggered by Ukraine conflict, IFAD calls for truce

AFRICA – The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has joined the UN Secretary-General’s call to end the Ukraine-Russia war immediately and restore peace, in a bid to avert a looming global catastrophe of food insecurity.

This comes as the international community has raised concerns pertaining to the ongoing conflict which is set to escalate hunger and poverty especially in the developing countries.

Impacts of rising food prices and shortages of staple crops are already being felt in the Near East and North Africa region and spreading to the world’s most vulnerable countries, including in the Horn of Africa, with poorest people at greatest risk.

A quarter of global wheat exports come from Russia and Ukraine with 40% of the commodity and corn from Ukraine go to the Middle East and Africa.

Prior to the on-going conflicts, the region was already grappling with hunger issues, and further food shortages or price increases risk pushing millions more people into poverty.

Russia is also the world’s largest fertilizer producer, and the war is set to further cause a spike in fertilizer prices which since last year have been on a high, contributing to a rise in food prices by about 30 percent.

“I am deeply concerned that the violent conflict in Ukraine, already a catastrophe for those directly involved, will also be a tragedy for the world’s poorest people living in rural areas who cannot absorb the price hikes of staple foods and farming inputs that will result from disruptions to global trade.

“We are already seeing price hikes and this could cause an escalation of hunger and poverty with dire implications for global stability,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD.

Price increases in staple foods, fuel, fertilizer to have dire impact on communities

In Somalia, where an estimated 3.8 million people are already severely food insecure, the costs of electricity and transportation have spiked due to fuel price increases.

This has a disproportionate impact on poor small-scale farmers and pastoralists who, in the face of erratic rainfall and an ongoing drought, rely on irrigation-fed agriculture powered by small diesel engines for their survival.

In Egypt, prices of wheat and sunflower oil have escalated due to Egypt’s reliance on Russia and Ukraine for 85 percent of its wheat supply and 73 percent of its sunflower oil.   

The grain imports would also be noticeably disrupted in countries such as Cameroon, Algeria, Libya, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Morocco and Mozambique, which is set to cause a jump in food prices.

Meanwhile, IFAD’s experts stress that small-scale producers are already reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, droughts, cyclones and other natural disasters.

Their incomes are expected to be affected by the rising cost of inputs, reduced food supplies and disrupted markets.

This is also likely to have devastating and long-term impacts on their nutrition and food security.

IFAD sets raft of strategies to curb food insecurity

To bring relief to the situation, IFAD is working closely with governments, rural communities and other partners to explore ways to step up global support to the regions most affected.

This will include building on its Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability (FARMS), which supports agricultural livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities.

It is also intensifying its work to reduce post-harvest losses, improve storage and strengthen local and regional food markets.

“IFAD is committed to increasing the resilience of the world’s poorest rural people who are critical for producing a third of the world’s food.

“We must do all we can to ensure they have the resources to keep producing food and be protected from additional shocks,” said Houngbo.

Despite formulating measures to boost food security in the region, IFAD notes that these are long-term strategies and that an end to the conflict is the most immediate and favourable solution.

Other than causing a strain on access to key commodities, the ongoing war has closed out some of the region’s food exports into the countries.

For instance, South Africa, benefits from exporting fruit to Russia. In 2020 Russia accounted for seven percent of South Africa’s citrus exports in value terms.

It also accounted for 12 percent of South Africa’s apples and pears exports in the same year – the country’s second-largest market.

Meanwhile in Kenya, Russia is the fourth-biggest buyer of its tea, having taken up produce worth US$54 million in the 11 months to November 2021.

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