Liberia: Russia Blamed for Wheat Surge in Africa

Photo credit: Dr. Bettina Rudloff presse


A German-based agricultural economist at the Institute of International and Security Affairs in Berlin said the impact of the Russia and Ukraine war on food supply to Africa is based on complicated characteristics of vulnerability for different countries. 

For Dr. Bettina Rudloff, the impacts are composed of import quality and prices, own stocks, and food aid. “The wheat prices have currently relaxed to the pre-war level,” she said. “But these prices are still much higher than the average of the last few years. And the war’s effects came on top of anyhow problematic situations as well as concerns about global hunger.”

On February 24, 2022, a troop of Russian soldiers launched an “unannounced” explosive strike on Ukraine. The largest capital city of Ukraine, Kyiv, was severely damaged.  Deaths and fatalities were reported. 

But the crisis has had far-reaching effects, with food security, particularly in Africa, being one of the most crucial ones. Major agricultural producers both in Russia and Ukraine, the conflict has affected their agricultural industries, raising questions about the availability and price of food.

One of the immediate effects of the crisis has been the disruption of trade flows. Russia and Ukraine were important exporters of agricultural commodities such as wheat, corn, and sunflower oil. However, the conflict has led to trade restrictions and disruptions, making it difficult for these countries to export their products. This has resulted in a reduction in the global supply of these commodities and subsequently, an increase in their prices.

Additionally, Ukraine exports more than five percent of the world's wheat and more than 13 percent of the world's corn. 18% of the world's wheat exports and 14% of the world's fertilizer exports come from Russia. According to the World Bank, it is also a "major force" in tin markets for metals and energy.

Countries like Liberia depend on exports from these countries, the war is a setback to them. The loss of grain and food imports means that it will be more difficult for Africans to obtain these goods and, above all, pay for them. 

Russia controls a quarter of the world’s natural gas exports, 18% of coal exports, 14% of platinum shipments, and 11% of crude oil exports. Oil prices have more than doubled in the past year, and if this continues, it will cut rates of economic growth by 20-50% in countries such as South Africa, Turkey, China, and Indonesia, the World Bank estimates.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that 690 million people, or 9% of the world’s population, are facing food insecurity.
Russia and Ukraine are also major producers and suppliers of fertilizers and their raw materials. Disruptions have put further pressure on Africa, thereby increasing food prices.

According to the World Food Programme, fertilizer prices more than doubled in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania in 2022. Increased prices and scarcity of essential goods triggered by the war impede progress in achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 2 of creating a world free of hunger by 2030.

The UN's 2023 World Economic Situations and Prospects Report revealed that Africa already has the highest prevalence of food insecurity globally, with 60 percent of the continent’s population facing moderate to severe food insecurity. The con is conflict, which therefore risks pushing African citizens deeper into poverty and hunger. 

“Wheat prices at all levels have increased since 2022,” Dr. Rudloff said.

Presenting at the online workshop held by the Taz Tazter Foundation in Berlin, Germany, for sixteen African journalists. She said  “option to substitute the basis or consumption needs and diversify import sources.” 

Tiled ‘Reconnecting – African-European Perspectives’, the workshop will help journalists report on major issues, including food security in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, climate change, disinformation, migration, and gender.

It is also intended to strengthen African-European relations. 

For the next six months, journalists will discuss with food and climate experts, and exchange ideas with state actors, especially about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but above all: they will work on presentations from the workshop and publish them in their local media.

The workshop is primarily about helping African journalists explore the relationship between the two continents. 

Topics include the food crisis in the wake of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, climate change, looted cultural assets, migration, Old and New Players in Africa, EU Strategy Global Gateway, Magazine Planning, and Gender.

Her presentation focused on “Food security in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis.”

The training consists of seven-webinar series every four weeks from June to December 2023, followed by an eight-day all-expenses-paid workshop in Berlin, Germany, in January 2024. 

Journalists were selected from Liberia, Botswana, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South, Africa, and Zambia.

Russia and Ukraine History

Russia and Ukraine, two European countries, share a long common history. Ukraine is referred to as the breadbasket of Europe. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the nation was one of the most famous and strong and a major agricultural powerhouse before it proclaimed its independence in 1991. 

But while Ukraine's independence has occasionally been turbulent, with moments of rallies and government corruption, Russia has kept a watchful eye on its neighbor to the West.

Russian aggression has been in response to Ukraine's aspirations to become more like Western nations, particularly its publicly expressed intention to join NATO, which was created at least in part to thwart Soviet expansion.