AP

War in Ukraine adds to food price hikes, hunger in Africa

May 29, 2022, 11:24 PM | Updated: May 31, 2022, 7:12 am

FILE - Farm employees spread fertilizer on a farm in Gerdau, North West province, South Africa, Nov...

FILE - Farm employees spread fertilizer on a farm in Gerdau, North West province, South Africa, Nov. 19, 2018. Families across Africa are paying about 45% more for wheat flour as Russia's war in Ukraine blocks exports from the Black Sea. Some countries like Somalia get more than 90% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine. That's forcing many people to substitute wheat for other grains. But the United Nations is warning that the price hikes are coming as many parts of Africa are facing drought and hunger. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

(AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — It now costs Ayan Hassan Abdirahman twice as much as it did just a few months ago to buy the wheat flour she uses to make breakfast each day for her 11 children in Somalia’s capital.

Nearly all the wheat sold in Somalia comes from Ukraine and Russia, which have halted exports through the Black Sea since Moscow waged war on its neighbor on Feb. 24. The timing could not be worse: The U.N. has warned that an estimated 13 million people were facing severe hunger in the Horn of Africa region as a result of a persistent drought.

Abdirahman has been trying to make do by substituting sorghum, another more readily available grain, in her flatbread. Inflation, though, means the price of the cooking oil she still needs to prepare it has skyrocketed too — a jar that once cost $16 is now selling for $45 in the markets of Mogadishu.

“The cost of living is high nowadays, making it difficult for families even to afford flour and oil,” she says.

Haji Abdi Dhiblawe, a businessman who imports wheat flour into Somalia, fears the situation will only worsen: There is also a looming shortage of shipping containers to bring food supplies in from elsewhere at the moment.

“Somalis have no place to grow wheat, and we are not even familiar with how to grow it,” he says. “Our main concern now is what will the future hold for us when we currently run out of supplies.”

Another 18 million people are facing severe hunger in the Sahel, the part of Africa just below the Sahara Desert where farmers are enduring their worst agricultural production in more than a decade. The U.N. World Food Program says food shortages could worsen when the lean season arrives in late summer.

“Acute hunger is soaring to unprecedented levels and the global situation just keeps on getting worse. Conflict, the climate crisis, COVID-19 and surging food and fuel costs have created a perfect storm — and now we’ve got the war in Ukraine piling catastrophe on top of catastrophe,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley warned earlier this month.

Even the cost of therapeutic food for malnourished children could rise 16% over the next six months because of the war in Ukraine and disruptions related to the pandemic, UNICEF says.

African countries imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to U.N. figures. The African Development Bank is already reporting a 45% increase in wheat prices on the continent, making everything from couscous in Mauritania to the fried donuts sold in Congo more expensive for customers.

“Africa has no control over production or logistics chains and is totally at the mercy of the situation,” said Senegalese President Macky Sall, the African Union chairperson, who has said he will travel to Russia and Ukraine to discuss the price woes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pressed the West last week to lift sanctions against Moscow over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame from Russia to the West for a growing world food crisis that has been worsened by Ukraine’s inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products while under attack.

Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow “is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizer on the condition that politically motivated restrictions imposed by the West are lifted,” according to the Kremlin.

Western officials have dismissed the Russian claims. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has noted that food, fertilizer and seeds are exempt from the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and many others on Russia.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has accused Russia of looting both grain and farm equipment from territories held by its forces. A Russia-installed official in southern Ukraine has confirmed that grain from last year’s harvest there is being sent to buyers in Russia, according to a report Monday by Russia’s Tass state news agency.

That grain, however, isn’t make its way to Africa. In Cameroon, baker Sylvester Ako says he’s seen his daily clientele drop from 300 customers a day to only 100 since bread prices jumped 40% because of the lack of wheat imports.

He’s already let three of his seven employees go, and worries that he will have to shutter his Yaounde business entirely unless something changes.

“The price of a 50-kilogram (110-pound) bag of wheat now sells at $60 — up from about $30 — and the supply is not regular,” Ako said.

Along with the shortfall in wheat imports, the African Development Bank is also warning of a potential 20% decline in food production on the continent because farmers are having to pay 300% more for their imported fertilizer.

The organization says it plans to address the issues through a $1.5 billion plan that will provide farmers in Africa with certified seeds, fertilizer and other help. Reducing dependence on foreign imports is part of the strategy, but those economic transitions are likely to take years, not months.

Senegal’s president says appetites can pivot more quickly. He’s encouraging Africans to consume local grains that were once the staples of their diets.

“We must also change our eating habits,” Sall said. “We dropped millet and started importing rice from Asia. Now we only know how to eat rice and we don’t produce enough. We only know how to eat bread. We do not produce wheat.”

___

Krista Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press journalists in Europe and Edwin Kindzeka Moki in Yaounde, Cameroon; Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal; Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro in Bunia, Congo, and Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana, contributed to this report.

___

Follow all AP stories on the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

An Apache group that has fought to protect land it considers sacred from a copper mining project in...

Associated Press

A US appeals court ruling could allow mine development in central Arizona on land sacred to Apaches

An Apache group that has fought to protect land from a copper mining project in central Arizona suffered a significant blow.

5 hours ago

On Friday, March 1, 2024, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said yogurt sold in the U.S. can ma...

Associated Press

Eating yogurt may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, FDA says

Eating at least two cups of yogurt a week might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

7 hours ago

Arizona will not approve new housing construction on the fast-growing edges of metro Phoenix that r...

Associated Press

Arizona Senate passes plan to manage rural groundwater, but final success is uncertain

A plan to manage rural groundwater passed the Arizona Senate amid concerns about the availability of sufficient water for future generations.

2 days ago

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

3 days ago

This undated image provided by Mikel Desmond shows his brother Marcus Tessier, who turned up in Dem...

Associated Press

Missing teen with autism found in New Mexico, about 200 miles away from his Arizona home

A missing teen with autism has been found in New Mexico — about 200 miles away from his home in southern Arizona.

3 days ago

A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicycl...

Associated Press

Report suggests steering of vehicle that caused fatal Goodyear bicycle crash worked fine

A new report on last year’s fatal Goodyear bicycle crash has cast doubts about the driver’s claim the vehicle’s steering locked up.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

...

Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

War in Ukraine adds to food price hikes, hunger in Africa