UN: War in Ukraine will hurt Africa's grain supplies

Wednesday March 16 2022
Residents of Turkana County receive relief food in 2011.

Residents of Turkana County, northern Kenya, receive relief food in 2011. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres says Africa could be hit with a shortage of wheat supply as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed concern that African countries could be hit with a shortage of wheat supply as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Following the February 24 invasion, the two biggest wheat growers in the world—Ukraine and Russia—may now be unable to supply to crucial markets in Africa, the UN boss said on Tuesday.

“Many African countries and poor countries are dependent on wheat production in Russia and Ukraine, but now they are at risk because of the war,” he added.

Guterres told reporters that 45 African countries and least developed countries import at least one-third of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and 18 of them import at least 50 percent.

These countries, according to the UN, include Egypt, Congo, Burkina Faso, Libya, Somalia, Lebanon, Yemen and Sudan, which had already been struggling to feed their people.

Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world's supply of sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world's wheat.


Russia is the world's largest wheat exporter, with about 17 percent share of the global export market.  It is also the second biggest supplier of sunflower seed.

The Black Sea region reportedly exports at least 12 percent of global food calories, including sunflower oil, maize, wheat and other crops.

About 40 percent of these exports go to the Middle East and Africa, where food prices are already surging.

Guterres further warned that Russia's war on Ukraine could lead to a global famine and food insecurity.

Food insecurity

The UN chief said Russia's war on Ukraine is holding “a sword of Damocles” over the global economy, especially on the poor developing countries that already are facing price hikes on food, fuel and fertiliser and are now seeing their breadbasket “being bombed.”

“Food, fuel, and fertiliser prices are skyrocketing. Supply chains are being disrupted. And the costs and delays of transportation of imported goods when available are at record levels. And all of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe,” Guterres added.


The Secretary-General further renewed the call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and called for negotiations toward peace to stop the suffering of Ukrainians and to avert the potential global food crisis threat posed by the war.

“Ukraine is on fire,” he said, adding that “the impact on civilians is reaching terrifying proportions.”

About $40 million would be needed to help millions of Ukrainians who are suffering from hunger, and water and medicine shortages, Guterres added.

Drought, hunger

Last year, the United Nations warned that millions of people were at risk of starvation as a result of the worsening drought in Somalia.

According to UN, nearly 13 million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are at risk of food and water shortages.

Meanwhile, drought-stricken Somalia is seeking international assistance to feed its 6.9 million people who are facing severe food and water shortages.

Somalia's Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has said more than half a million people have been forced to flee their homes in search of food and water.

He warned that many people in Somalia could starve unless emergency aid is supplied immediately.

“The drought in Somalia requires immediate action and urgent humanitarian assistance,” he said, adding that the country is facing the worst drought since 2011.

Thousands of children have been forced to drop out of school due to severe drought in Somalia.

In Sudan thousands of people are protesting against a rapid deterioration in living conditions, including a sharp rise in the price of bread.

On Sunday, the cost of bread, the main food staple for most Sudanese, rose by more than 40 per cent.