BY: OMOME AMUGE
The African Development Bank (AfDB) is to raise as much as $1 billion to enhance wheat production in Africa and avert imminent food shortages arising from the Russia-Ukraine war.
Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB President, explained that the continent’s biggest multilateral lender is raising the funds to help 40 million African farmers utilise climate-resilient technologies and increase their output of heat-tolerant wheat varieties and other major crops.
According to Adesina, wheat imports account for about 90 percent of Africa’s $4 billion trade with Russia and nearly half of the continent’s $4.5 billion trade with Ukraine.
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He further emphasised that the food production and demand gratification risks are particularly acute in Africa, as about 283 million people were already facing acute hunger before the onset of the war.
“If there was ever a time that we needed to drastically raise food production in Africa, for Africa’s food security, and to mitigate the impact of this food crisis arising from this war, it is now,” Adesina said.
Looking forward to raising the funds for the initiative, the multilateral finance institution said it is planning a meeting of the continent’s finance and agriculture ministers to discuss how best to finance the project, which includes increasing the production of wheat, rice, soybeans, and other crops to feed about 200 million Africans.
Prior to the AfDB’s statement, the United Nations had warned that the already high food costs could surge by 22 percent as the war between Russia and Ukraine stifles trade and cuts future production.
More so, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that global food prices are poised to extend above February’s record high for the gauge tracking prices for meat, dairy, cereals, oils, and sugar, as geopolitical tensions defy global economic recovery, placing the heaviest burden on vulnerable populations.
Citing inflation-adjusted figures from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the international financial institution observed that food commodity prices surged 23.1 percent in 2021, which it described as the fastest pace in over a decade.
The IMF observed that the attack in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia are upending shipments and possibly production for two of the world’s largest agricultural producers, noting that both countries account for nearly 30 percent of world wheat exports and 18 percent of corn, most of which is shipped through Black Sea ports that are now closed to trade.
The IMF report further showed that impending price shocks will have worldwide impact, especially on poor households for whom food is a higher share of expenses, noting that food costs account for 17 percent of consumer spending in advanced economies, but 40 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.