The United States Government has warned that the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine is threatening Africa’s food security, saying African leaders must increase investments in the agricultural sector to boost production, especially through smallholder farmers.
Specifically, the Permanent Representative of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (UN)’s Food and Agriculture Agencies, Ambassador Cindy McCain, gave the warning at a press briefing on Tuesday in Rome, noting that Ukraine had been a major source of wheat for over 138 million people in more than 80 countries including Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Nigeria.
According to her, before the war, over 40 per cent of wheat, corn and fertiliser exports from Ukraine went to the Middle East and Africa, which are already grappling with hunger, adding that the Korean Agriculture Organisation had estimated that about 13 million people worldwide would be pushed into food insecurity as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Furthermore, the ambassador noted that the war has compounded the impact of climate change on the vulnerable population, stressing the need for governments to increase domestic food production.
She said, “We’re already seeing a shortening food supply. The fact is that there is a huge shortage, of about 50 per cent as opposed to 100 per cent before the war. There are going to be some tough choices to be made by African countries.
“It’s about increasing investments that make it easier for seeds to get to the market, which increase the flow of goods as quickly and as efficiently as possible.” Also, McCain encouraged governments across the continent to remain open to trade and not to close themselves off.
“Stay open to trade, allow our markets to operate, do not close off shipping routes,” she added. On his part, a representative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Jim Barnhart, said high global food prices and soaring fertiliser prices are already threatening Africa’s food security drive.
“The invasion coupled with the weakened food system could result in significant increases in global poverty, hunger and malnutrition, particularly in regions like Sub-Sahara Africa,” he stated