The Coming Food Catastrophe? — EU-AU Pledge United Stance on Food Security Amid Famine Warnings in Africa

Written by | Wednesday, June 1st, 2022

A solution to export grain stocks out of Ukraine must be found to “avoid the catastrophic scenario of shortages” and further food price increases, African Union President Macky Sall told European Union leaders at their summit in Brussels yesterday (31 May). “We would like to see everything possible done to free up available grain stocks and ensure transportation and market access,” he said. This comes as a senior UN official said he had “constructive discussions” in Moscow on facilitating Russian grain and fertilizer exports to global markets.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called for the EU and Africa to step up efforts on food production, including via innovative farming techniques such as precision farming, in light of the war in Ukraine. Speaking during a press conference following a meeting of EU leaders on Tuesday (31 May), der Leyen listed “stepping up our own food production” as one of the key elements in making up for the deficit in food production left by the Ukraine war. The EU and the African Union (AU) have agreed on a united message on food security which places the blame for disruptions to food supply squarely on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s shoulders amid warnings of a “catastrophic” famine. The AU will reportedly also hold a meeting with President Putin in the coming days, meaning that it is particularly important to present a united front. The news comes after Macky Sall, who is also the president of Senegal, addressed EU leaders, where he impressed the gravity of the current situation.
Both Russia and Ukraine play a central role in supplying the world with staple grains and oils, together providing more than a third of the world’s wheat and barley, 52% of maize, and over 50% of sunflower oil and seeds. As a direct consequence of Russia’s invasion, millions of tonnes of food exports are currently stuck in Ukraine. While the crisis holds worldwide impact, many countries in Africa are particularly vulnerable given their reliance on food exports from both countries, combined with an already volatile food security situation. Even before the conflict in Ukraine, data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization on the state of food security and nutrition in the world in 2020 indicated that 282 million people, or more than a third of the world’s undernourished people, live in Africa. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic plunged an extra 46 million Africans into risk of hunger and undernourishment.
“This means that the situation is worrying and that the worst may be yet to come if the current trend continues,” the AU chair warned, urging EU leaders to do “everything possible” to free up available grain stocks and ensure transport and market access to avoid the “catastrophic scenario of shortages and widespread price hikes”. European Council President Charles Michel subsequently stressed that the war in Ukraine has “potentially serious ramifications” both for the EU and the African continent. Specifically, Michel proposed that the EU and the African Development Bank (AfDB) examine how French President Emmanuel Macron’s FARM (Food & Agriculture Resilience Mission) initiative and the AfDB Emergency Plan could best support massive investment in agriculture. The aim would be to use these tools to modernize and mechanize the sector with the latest innovative techniques to ensure appropriate fertilizer and pesticides use and improve storage capacities.

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