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How Russia-Ukraine conflict could influence Africa’s food supplies

Truck transport container on the road to the port.

Source: Wandile Sihlobo, The Conversation, 24 February 2022, photo credit: 123RF/nightman1965

No man qualifies as a statesman who is entirely ignorant of the problems of wheat.

The words of the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates.

Wheat and other grains are back at the heart of geopolitics following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both countries play a major role in the global agricultural market. African leaders must pay attention.

There is significant agricultural trade between countries on the continent and Russia and Ukraine. African countries imported agricultural products worth US$4 billion from Russia in 2020. About 90% of this was wheat, and 6% was sunflower oil. Major importing countries were Egypt, which accounted for nearly half of the imports, followed by Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Algeria, Kenya and South Africa.

Similarly, Ukraine exported US$2.9 billion worth of agricultural products to the African continent in 2020. About 48% of this was wheat, 31% maize, and the rest included sunflower oil, barley, and soybeans.

Russia and Ukraine are substantial players in the global commodities market. Russia produces about 10% of global wheat while Ukraine accounts for 4%. Combined, this is nearly the size of the European Union’s total wheat production. The wheat is for domestic consumption and well as export markets. Together the two countries account for a quarter of global wheat exports. In 2020 Russia accounted for 18%, and Ukraine 8%.
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