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Only Putin can end the global food crisis, says UK’s...

Africa

PORTS BLOCKADE

Only Putin can end the global food crisis, says UK’s Minister for Africa

The UK's Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford. (Photo: Flickr)

The major food shortages and spikes in food prices were ‘entirely the result of Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports’, the UK’s Minister for Africa has told journalists.

Only Russian President Vladimir Putin can end the global food crisis, which Africa is feeling most acutely, says the UK’s Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford. 

The major food shortages and steep spikes in food prices were entirely the result of Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports which was preventing it from exporting its grain and fertilisers. They had nothing to do with Western sanctions against Russia, Ford told South African journalists on Tuesday. 

Ford, who was on a brief visit to South Africa, said at least 140 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa were experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity, an increase of over 15 million since the start of 2022. The World Food Programme had calculated that the war in Ukraine had added 30 million to this list. 

The African Development Bank had estimated a fertiliser shortage of four million tonnes in Africa this year. “Without the supply of fertiliser Africa could lose a fifth of production in the next two harvesting seasons,” she said. “So it’s extremely serious.”

Ford said at least 1.7 billion people worldwide were directly affected by the current surge in food, energy and commodity prices. African countries had been hit especially hard, with fuel prices up by more than 50% since a year ago.

“When we add the impact of the Covid pandemic, the room for countries to respond to these issues is very small indeed.”

Ford said the UK was calling on all countries to keep trade flowing, as the best way to keep prices down. She noted that more than 15% of the global food trade had been subject to export restrictions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as countries around the world had taken measures to protect their national food needs.    

The war in Ukraine was also aggravating other humanitarian crises in Africa. In response, the UK would provide at least £156-million in emergency humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa. 

The UK would intensify its effort to lobby the World Bank to increase its financial commitment to address economic hardship, by providing guarantees to the African Development Bank. These guarantees would unlock up to $2-billion more lending over four years to South Africa and other African countries to help them strengthen climate and economic resilience. 

“Russia’s unjustified and illegal attack on Ukraine has made these issues much worse. The consequences of Russia’s invasion are harming Africa’s interests,” Ford said.     

“UK sanctions against Russia are not the reason that food prices are rising. There are no UK sanctions targeting exports of food or fertilisers to Africa. The fact that Ukraine’s grain is not getting out to the rest of the world is entirely due to the Russian blockade. 

“Until Russia’s invasion in February, Ukraine was the breadbasket of Europe, the exporter of food and fertiliser, feeding up to 400 million people worldwide. The UN estimates that up to 25 million tonnes of grain destined for export to international markets are now sitting in storage in Ukraine. 

“And the problem comes down to the blockade of Ukrainian ports and the severely reduced road and rail capacity in Ukraine caused by the continual bombardment of cities and infrastructure by Russian troops.

“The international community must work together to reduce the rising costs of living across Africa and that includes getting grain out of Ukraine. The UK is working with the EU to increase the volume of grain exported by rail.” DM

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