The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a cautionary message to Nigeria and other African nations to prepare for an increase in food prices due to recent developments causing temporary suspension of Ukraine’s food exports to African countries.
Isobel Coleman, USAID’s Deputy Administrator for Policy and Programming, conveyed this warning during a virtual press conference on Thursday.
She highlighted that the decision of Russia to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative had initiated a rise in global food prices. Developing countries heavily reliant on grain imports from Ukraine are expected to bear the brunt of this impact.
Coleman stated, “Ukraine is one of the world’s major food suppliers. Russia’s action has led to a worldwide surge in food prices. The Black Sea Grain Initiative had previously contributed to lowering global food prices. However, since Russia exited the agreement, food prices have been on the rise again.”
She emphasized that the consequences of this price hike would be most pronounced in large import-dependent developing nations that spend a significant portion of their foreign exchange resources on purchasing food to sustain their populations.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was initially designed to facilitate commercial exports of food and fertilizers, including ammonia, from key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea. However, Russia’s actions, including the invasion of Ukraine and halting grain exports, disrupted this initiative and contributed to escalating food prices.
To address the situation, discussions began in April 2022, culminating in an agreement signed in Istanbul in July 2022. This agreement temporarily stabilized food prices, but Russia’s refusal to renew the deal after its expiration on July 17, 2023, raised concerns about future food security.
Coleman expressed USAID’s determination to explore alternative means for Ukraine to export grain without the existing obstacles. She noted that the U.S. government, through the ‘Feed The Future’ campaign, had invested significantly in making developing countries more resilient to food crises.
Elizabeth McKee, Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, joined the conversation, describing the situation as dire. She highlighted Russia’s announcement that ships heading to Ukrainian ports could be viewed as military targets, destroying port facilities, infrastructure, and grain crops.
In conclusion, the reemergence of the Black Sea Grain Initiative issue and Russia’s actions have triggered concerns over rising food prices and potential food security challenges, particularly for developing countries like Nigeria.