The agricultural sector is facing a number of challenges as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war’s impact, and one of the biggest is the ever-increasing price of fertiliser across the globe. Within East Africa, the price of fertiliser has doubled, and this has affected the region’s latest cereal harvest, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme (UN WFP).
“Fertiliser prices increased two-fold (more than doubled) from their levels a year ago in the region within two months of the Ukraine invasion. This unfortunately coincided with the 2022 main season crop planting that disrupted farming. There has also been a hike in fuel prices region-wide, rising by 17-75% in April 2022 year-on-year, the steepest increase observed in Burundi, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. This has impacted ability of farmers to use farm machinery and transport, and will further reduce their ability to grow sufficient crops this year,” the organisation said.
Food insecurity likely to rise
According to the WFP, cereal production in the 2022 cropping year could fall by 16% year-on-year due to rising fertiliser and fuel expenses. Total cereal production in 2022 is expected to be around 37.8 million metric tons (MT), down from 45.2 million in 2021. This equates to around 7.2 million tons of crop production; the number of food insecure individuals in the region is likely to rise by nearly 6-7 million by the end of the year due to lower crop production due to fertiliser price increases and reduced use.
The cereal output projections are conservative and might be higher, particularly in Somalia, Ethiopia’s belg-producing (short season) areas, and Kenya’s marginal agricultural areas, which have been the hardest hit by the continuing drought in the Eastern Horn of Africa.
“The highest decline in cereal production will be in Ethiopia (21%), Kenya (12%), and Sudan (16%) while marginally reduced in the rest of the countries given the relatively low use of fertilisers by the latter. This implies that fertiliser price inflation will likely magnify food insecurity in these countries more than in the rest,” the organisation continued.
“Reduced domestic cereal availability will likely result in more food imports to bridge the gap putting additional pressure on already weaker local currency resulting in higher food inflation in the short run and adding to food security concerns in the region. Higher food prices combined with low household stocks will further compromise household purchasing, limiting physical and economic access to food.”
Farmers who are affected, as well as the bulk of impoverished urban and rural people who rely on markets, will be the hardest afflicted. By the end of the year, the number of people in the region who are food insecure, is likely to reach more than 100 million.