The Russia-Ukraine war threatens Africa’s wheat supply

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is likely to disrupt Africa’s wheat supply and increase heightened food insecurity in some parts of the continent including Somalia, which is experiencing its worst drought in decades.

“A decline in wheat trade will have a compound effect on the drought, as so much of our food comes from Russia and Ukraine. From the price of goods, to the actual supply, Somalia is going to feel the impact of this crisis for many months to come,” says Abdullahi Nur Osman, CEO of the Hormuud Salaam Foundation, a philanthropic organization that delivers aid to drought-impacted communities in Somalia.

Somalia imports most of its wheat from Egypt, which imports about 85% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of food globally, with the two exporting almost 12% of total calories traded in the world. The two countries are also leading producers of wheat which African countries heavily rely on them for. Eastern Africa, which meets most of its wheat demand through imports, gets 90% of its imported wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

Wheat and wheat products account for one third of the average cereal consumption in eastern Africa.

“From Mogadishu to Moscow, the world is deeply interconnected,” says Osman.

Russia and Ukraine export wheat from the Black Sea

The Russia-Ukraine war is likely to affect wheat supply chains as Ukraine, Russia, and Romania, three major wheat exporters that ship grains from ports in the Black Sea, face disruptions from the conflict, closure of ports, and sanctions, says the World Food Programme (WFP). The organization adds that trade disruptions and economic sanctions on Russia could limit trade with eastern Africa, leading to food shortage and higher prices in the short term.

Another reason for  possible supply chain disruption by the war is that Russians and Ukrainians make up about 15% of the global shipping workforce, meaning there would be complications in the distribution of products if the war hindered the movement of this workforce.

“Shipping is a global industry like no other,” Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, tells Quartz. “The continued inability for merchant ships to export goods from both countries will have a material impact on the world, particularly in developing nations.”

The ICS represents 80% of the world’s merchant fleet.

Wheat markets in eastern Africa are currently well supplied and the magnitude of the supply chain disruption would depend on how fast the region’s importers and traders adapt and find new grain sources, the WFP says .

The disruption in the distribution of wheat chain is one of many possible supply chain effects of the Russia-Ukraine war. The conflict is creating a crisis in the nickel business too.

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