How Russia is Solving Africa’s Food Dilemma Despite Western Sanctions
08:23 GMT 11.01.2023 (Updated: 08:25 GMT 11.01.2023)
© Sputnik / Igor ZaremboWheat harvest in Russia's Kaliningrad Region
© Sputnik / Igor Zarembo/
While 350 million Africans are suffering from food insecurity, the collective West is continuing to ramp up sanctions over Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, disrupting established supply chains and facilitating an energy and food crisis. What’s worse, NATO countries are artificially prolonging the crisis, Africa experts told Sputnik.
“According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the food remains beyond reach for many due to high prices and weather shocks,” Ashraf Patel, senior research associate with the Institute for Global Dialogue and member of the South Africa BRICS Think Tank Network, told Sputnik.
“The number of people facing acute food insecurity worldwide is expected to continue to rise. Fertilizer markets remain volatile, especially in Europe, where tight natural gas supplies and high prices have caused many producers of urea and ammonia to stop operations. This may reduce fertilizer application rates for the next crop season, prolonging and deepening the impact of the crisis,” Patel continued.
About 350 million people in Africa suffer from food insecurity, said International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Director-General Robert Mardini, while delivering a speech at the Folk och Forsvar ("People and Defense") conference that kicked off on Sunday in Sweden.
Following the beginning of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, the Group of Seven (G7) and its allies slapped sweeping sanctions on virtually all sectors of Russia’s economy, including the financial and banking sector, transportation, energy, and many others. The country was severed from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) and banned from making or receiving international payments using the mechanism.
The Western sanctions crippled Russia’s food and fertilizer trade even though the European Council repeatedly claimed that the West had not imposed “direct” sanctions on the nation’s agricultural goods.
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Still, the Western mainstream media acknowledged in March 2022 that as sanctions hurt Russia, "fertilizer shortage imperils world food supply." The African Union, a continental union consisting of 54 member states, drew attention to the "collateral impact" of the West's unprecedented sanctions on Russia's food supplies to the Global South in May 2022.
The US and its NATO allies have tried to pin all of the blame for the turbulent food market on Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. However, the African nations don’t buy into this, according to Dr. Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a Ugandan independent researcher and political scientist with a special interest in political economics.
“Western countries are using the food narrative to galvanize support for their media war on Russia,” Golooba-Mutebi said. “I have had people evoke the specter of increased hunger in Africa as a result of that [Russo-Ukrainian conflict]. It is an exaggeration.”
According to Golooba-Mutebi, the major issues causing Africa’s hunger problem are disrupted supply chains and poor internal distribution. The lack of fertilizers is further exacerbating the problem, he admitted.
“Fertilizers are necessary across the continent,” the Ugandan researcher said. “African farmers use very small quantities of fertilizers as a result of lack of capacity to buy them, but also poor distribution networks. Cheap fertilizers would help, but countries need to improve distribution and access internally.”
The peaceful resolution of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict would help to restore supply chains and reinvigorate the global food trade, the Africa experts believe. However, Western countries are continuing to pour gasoline on the fire in Ukraine by stepping up arms supplies and artificially protracting the conflict, according to them.
As a result, the West’s policies continue to exacerbate the global food security and nutrition crisis, with high and volatile energy, food and fertilizer prices, restrictive trade policies, and supply chain disruptions, according to Ashraf Patel.
“The food security issue is real in the Developing South, especially in Africa and Asia, with food inflation at 20%. By supplying arms and technical support to Ukraine, this sends a signal for the continuation of the conflict, leading to a breakdown of trust between parties and the erosion of the resilience of agriculture,” Patel said.
To contribute to the solution of the food crisis in the Global South, Moscow created a safe grain corridor in the Black Sea to ensure the transportation of agricultural goods from Ukraine to its customers. Russia and Ukraine concluded the so-called grain deal in July 2022 with Turkey as a mediator. Moreover, Moscow also pledged to provide hundreds of thousands of tons of fertilizer and grain for free to poor countries.
“It is a good gesture and one of responsibility, similar to the Covid pandemic support of vaccines and welcomed, and in line with developmental solidarity and the Global South,” said Patel. “Africa has zones of large agriculture industry that’s mechanized and commercialized and linked to regional and global value chains. It also has millions of small-scale subsistence farmers who are more challenged due to lack of access to technology, knowledge and implements. There is also a lack of land reform, etc.”
However, Western countries took the lion’s share of food coming from Ukraine through the grain corridor and snubbed Russia’s gesture of good will.
It took a lot of time and effort to ensure at least partial delivery of agricultural goods from Russia to developing nations. As of November 2022, Russia exported over 15 million tons of grain, as well as a large amount of mineral fertilizers within the framework of the Russo-Ukrainian grain deal, according to Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov.
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“More than 90% of deliveries go to countries in Africa and Southeast Asia,” Belousov told reporters on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) summit in Bangkok in November 2022.
All in all, Russia has the capacity to export around 50 million tons of grain between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023, as Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Victoria Abramchenko told journalists in mid-November.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he had agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the possibility of sending free Russian grain and fertilizers to starving African countries.
In addition to that, Russia is set to build its own dry cargo ships to become completely independent from Western maritime transportation companies and insurers. The creation of its own fleet for the export of Russian food has become a strategic task and an important factor in the development of the agro-industrial complex in Russia, according to the nation's Ministry of Agriculture.