The disruption of grain deliveries from Ukraine could be a likelihood for African nations to step up meals manufacturing at dwelling, the African Union’s Commissioner for rural financial system and agriculture, Josefa Sacko, advised EURACTIV in an interview.
Whereas pressures on international meals costs had relaxed considerably by the beginning of this yr in accordance with information from the UN’s Meals and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 had a significant impression on worldwide agricultural markets.
As Ukraine and Russia collectively made up vital shares of worldwide grain and oilseed exports, nations depending on imported wheat and different merchandise have been hit laborious by disruptions and value spikes.
North African nations like Egypt, Algeria, or Tunisia, but additionally sub-Saharan states together with Nigeria, Kenya, and Benin have been significantly affected, Sacko defined.
Talking to EURACTIV Germany on the sidelines of the Berlin Agriculture Ministers Convention on Saturday (21 January), she warned that meals shortages and excessive costs pose a excessive danger of social unrest in lots of African nations.
“In Africa, we’re very weak to such conflicts,” she mentioned whereas pointing to the start of the Arab Spring in Egypt, the place protests have been triggered in 2010 by excessive bread costs.
Changing imports with meals grown at dwelling
Nonetheless, the short-term disruptions of grain imports as a result of Ukraine warfare is also a chance for African nations to strengthen agricultural manufacturing at dwelling, the Commissioner confused.
“As policymakers, we must always take this as a chance to vary the narrative, change our method,” she mentioned. “Take a look at Ethiopia in the present day: this yr, they’re going to export wheat as a result of final yr, when the warfare began, they began producing it.”
She added that Africa presently spends $45 billion (€41.4 billion) yearly on meals imports – cash that may very well be spent as a substitute on growing the home agriculture sector.
Requested whether or not it’s the proper method for the EU to ramp up manufacturing in an effort to fill the hole left by Ukraine on international markets, Sacko mentioned that, on a free worldwide market, it’s truthful for Europe to export its merchandise however that African nations would have the ability to provide theirs at extra aggressive costs as soon as manufacturing on the continent is ramped up.
“We can not inform Europeans to not produce. However as soon as we begin producing, it is going to be aggressive – folks will see the value,” she confused.
The African Union, Sacko defined, is due to this fact encouraging its member states to leverage the probabilities held by their agricultural land by investing in home manufacturing and thereby creating jobs and wealth.
With 60% of arable land to date uncultivated, there’s a massive potential to ramp up agricultural manufacturing, she added. “We’ve the ecosystem to feed Africa and to feed the world.”
Larger inexperienced requirements want larger costs
In the meantime, the EU’s inexperienced farming ambitions set out within the bloc’s meals flagship coverage, the Farm to Fork Technique, have left many farmers in Africa frightened, particularly with calls to use sustainability or animal welfare requirements utilized inside the EU to exports as properly.
Small farmers, particularly, worry that such necessities with out matching assist to implement sustainable measures might turn into a significant hurdle to commerce.
Requested concerning the points, Sacko acknowledged that demanding requirements could be a problem for African producers seeking to export to Europe.
On the identical time, she confused that the appliance of requirements in itself isn’t one thing to be criticised, however that, to ensure that producers to have the ability to comply, they want truthful worldwide markets and truthful producer costs.
“Requirements are good as a result of we’re preventing for meals security, we would like high quality meals – you must standardise if you end up buying and selling,” she mentioned. “However we additionally need to have a say in setting the value. At present, this doesn’t even have in mind the price of manufacturing.”
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]