Because of high natural gas prices rising food prices could make the difference between life or death for millions of people around the world. Organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are closely tracking the effects of price hikes on global food security. The main driver behind the food price problems we are facing is conflict; most of the countries in food crisis have internal conflict. The second is economic downturns; COVID-19 is one of the major reasons most poor countries are facing significant challenges. And the third, of course, is climate change.
In the case of the Middle East, the key net food importers are Arabic speaking countries—more than 50 percent of their wheat imports come from Russia and Ukraine. Sub-Saharan Africa is different, as it doesn’t have wheat as a main staple. They have the more nutritious millet, cassava, and rice as staples. Maize and wheat are primarily used for feedstock.
In 2012 East African countries began preparing for this eventuality. Prior to 2012, trends in the area's production and yields of sorghum were negative for southern but positive for eastern Africa, where production doubled to reach 6 million tons. Production growth was led by Ethiopia and Somalia. Yields varied widely, from 5 tons a hectare in Botswana and 2 tons a hectare in Ethiopia to 0.3 t/ha in Zimbabwe. Sorghum was used primarily for food (64%) or food processing (14%) with 19% for other non-food uses and just 3% for animal feed. Despite its image as a poor man’s crop, the price of sorghum was higher than for maize in Ethiopia and Kenya, although not in Zimbabwe. Trends in the area, production and yield of millets over the same period showed positive growth. Four countries – Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Uganda – accounted for the bulk of production.
Strong production growth in Ethiopia is a great asset to Uganda which currently has the means to purchase all the grain it needs with the discovery of new gold resources. Yields varied from 1.5 t/ha in Ethiopia to 0.2 t/ha in Zimbabwe. Millets were used primarily for food (68%) and food processing (20%), with just 3% for animal feed and none for non-food uses. World prices averaged $200-400 USD per t, or twice the price of sorghum. Domestic prices were above world prices, with the relative price of millet higher than maize in Ethiopia and Kenya, though not in Zimbabwe.
Trade in millets was thinner than for sorghum but in 2021 that has changed greatly with the UN declaring 2023 the year of Millet, with Kenya being the biggest regional importer. The East African Community allows free trade in cereals among member states but until recently was hindered by high transport costs and periodic export bans in drought years. Many crops of regional importance, including cereals such as sorghum, millets and rye, lost their status in recent decades (Khoury et al., 2014).
Prior to colonization in sub-Saharan Africa, grains like Sorghum, Amaranthus species, Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea) and other crops were the main source of food for communities, but there has been a post-colonial displacement of these foods as they are replaced by foreign staples like wheat, and a purposeful stigmatization of these foods as “poor man's food” (Demi, 2014; Chivenge et al., 2015; Mabhaudhi et al., 2018). As such, cultivation of millets and traditional grains has become non-competitive and unattractive compared to the “major” crops that are promoted through formal seed systems and markets (Chivenge et al., 2015). The role of indigenous foods in diets continues to be eroded in line with global trends as Western diets and formalization of the food system continues apace (Drimie and Pereira, 2016; Mbhenyane, 2016).
The world food crisis is about to get worse. Millions are facing starvation as war combines with financial and climate-driven shocks. High food prices have triggered a global crisis that is driving millions more into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition. Moscow's war in Europe's breadbasket has severely rocked global food markets, forcing humanitarian agencies to slash food rations in countries. As an extreme heatwave and subsequent drought have wreaked havoc on European agricultural cycles, In other circumstances, Europe might be relied upon to fulfill agricultural shortfalls. But the continent, too, has been hammered by a relentless summer of hot, dry weather, sparking wildfires and droughts across large swathes of land.
The European Commission said last week that Europe is currently witnessing its worst drought in 500 years, with 47% of the region in “warning” status. It added that conditions are intensifying in 15 countries, including Germany, France and the U.K., with droughts expected to last into at least November along the Mediterranean. Europe's hope lies in trade with African countries. In the past Europeans would go into Africa under the pretense of offering AID and then silently remove the resources they needed while doing as little as possible in offering real aid that usually European policies created the necessity for. The historical imperial annexation of this vast territory, which includes modern Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, has been heralded as the definitive example of late-Victorian grand strategy whereupon they stole resources for nearly a century. Now European nations are scrambling to do trade and exposing the underhanded dealings of other nations in the process.
At least 40 percent of the grain exported from Ukraine under a UN-brokered deal is shipped to the EU instead of the developing countries in Africa for which it was intended, Spain's El Pais newspaper reported citing UN data and ship tracking figures. This is commonly how the EU receives aid without appearing that it needs aid. By claiming it is for Africa! According to the report, more than 2.3 million tonnes of corn, wheat, barley and other agricultural products were exported through the Black Sea corridor from Ukraine between August 1st and September 7th.Speaking at a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western nations of lying when they claimed Ukraine needed access to sea shipping to alleviate surging food prices and the risk of famine in poor countries, as a lion’s share of the grain is being exported to Western states.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sided with the Russian leader, saying that Ukrainian grain is “unfortunately” going mostly to rich countries. The U.N. organization that's monitoring these ships gave a breakdown today admitting Putin wasn’t wrong, and it said 17% of the grains went to the whole of Africa. And if you look at Somalia, which the E.U claims is on the cusp of a widespread famine, it got just 1%. Nearly half the total of grains headed towards the Middle East, and that includes Turkey, which is actually milling the wheat into flour and sending it on to other countries. But yeah, one third of the shipments have gone to Europe.