The Russian invasion into Ukraine has been a major disruptor to the wheat and grain industries, as both countries were known to export these grains. Policymakers from the European Union (EU) are concerned about how to keep the people who rely on grains from these two countries will fare in the coming months.
Wheat exports from Ukraine and Russia account for 30% of global supplies, and exports through Black Sea ports have halted, forcing wheat prices to skyrocket by 150%. In March, the European Commission approved €500 million in support measures for Ukrainian and European farmers who are directly affected by high prices or have been cut off from global markets.
“Wheat exports have been massively disrupted due to the blockage of the Black Sea,” EU commissioner for agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said during a meeting with the council’s agricultural ministers recently. The meeting was hosted to call support to Ukraine and other emerging economies, especially Africa. In addition, the EU pledged €554 million in 2022 to improve food security in the region. Wojciechowski added that similar strategies are required for Sub-Saharan Africa, though no specifics were provided.
To enhance agricultural output and ensure that everyone is nourished, French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said the EU required “production targets” to boost agricultural output even further.
“Russia is using grain as a strategic instrument to cause harm,” he said, while reportedly invoking the Treaty of Rome. “We need to reduce our dependency, and for that, we need to define how much we need.”
Wojciechowski, however, argued that countries in Africa need special assistance, and are at a much higher risk.
Many African countries, including Benin, Egypt, Sudan, Madagascar, and Burundi, rely on Ukrainian grain almost entirely. Due to a multi-year drought in the Sahel region of West Africa, more than 31 million people are anticipated to require immediate food aid. However, this figure is likely to rise significantly.