Monday

27th Jun 2022

African Union chief raises alarm over food crisis at EU summit

  • The war in Ukraine could lead to between eight and 13 million more people being undernourished next year, according to the UN (Photo: Jon Bunting)
Listen to article

A solution to export grain stocks out of Ukraine must be found to "avoid the catastrophic scenario of shortages" and further food price increases, African Union president Macky Sall told EU leaders at their summit in Brussels on Tuesday (31 May).

"We would like to see everything possible done to free up available grain stocks and ensure transportation and market access," he said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Ongoing disruption in exports of grain and fertilisers as a consequence of the war in Ukraine is triggering a new global food crisis which risks worsening famine in some African countries, South Asia and the Middle East.

Russia is using food as a "weapon of war," said European Council president Charles Michel.

Ukraine is one of the world's biggest exporters of agricultural goods, accounting for over 12 percent of the world's wheat, 15 percent of corn and 50 percent of sunflower oil, most of which are normally exported by sea.

But the long-standing Russian blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports could result in the loss of over 20 million tonnes of grain.

The UN previously warned that the war in Ukraine could lead to between eight and 13 million more people being undernourished next year.

But the situation is especially "worrying" for the continent hosting 282 million unnourished people, Sall said.

In his address, the Senegalese president called to increase food production and access to fertilisers in Africa, warning that cereal yield in the continent could fall by 20-50 percent this year.

At the summit, EU leaders called on the European Commission to accelerate efforts to put in place safe corridors and facilitate food exports from Ukraine via land routes and EU ports.

But they did not discuss details on what the solidarity lanes would look like, an EU official said.

"The most efficient way would be to open the sea but it has a lot of difficulties," said EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell ahead of the summit.

This would require de-mining the waters, mobilising navy and military capacity, and guaranteeing the navigation of this water to ensure that "this opportunity is not used by the Russian navy to attack Odessa," he also said.

Other corridors being considered include a possible passage through Romania and Bulgaria, one through Poland or through the Baltics and maritime assistance by Turkey.

Sall infomed EU leaders of his intention to call Russian president Vladimir Putin to discuss food security, EU officials said.

In parallel, Michel is also expected to meet UN chief António Guterres next week in New York to further discuss efforts to find an international agreement to open a maritime corridor for grain exports from Ukraine.

Russian propaganda in Africa

Meanwhile, the Russian narrative over the negative impact of EU sanctions on global food security is already spreading across the African continent, Sall told EU leaders, pointing out the need to jointly counter this propaganda.

This is "misinformation" from Russia, said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, warning that the "severe food crisis" that is developing is the sole responsibility of the unjustified Russian aggression in Ukraine.

"I want to be very clear, we have no sanctions on food and agricultural products," she said.

In their conclusions, EU leaders also reiterated their commitment to keeping global food trade "free of unjustified trade barriers".

Restricting food global trade has "absolutely no place in our member states or globally," said Von der Leyen.

Hungary is the only EU country which previously established a ban on exporting some cereals and industrial crops, however.

Last month, French president Emmanuel Macron launched the Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission (FARM) initiative together with EU countries, the G7 and the African Union — in a bid to keep markets open, ensure international solidarity and promote sustainable farming.

While welcoming the inactive, Sall said FARM should be seen as something "complementary" because Africa has enough arable land and water capacity to feed itself and help feed the planet.

But African countries need more financial and technological aid to "produce more and better," he said.

EU states warn of looming food-price crisis

Prices of cereals, fertilisers, and oilseed have shot up drastically in several European markets due to Russia's war on Ukraine, prompting some member states to seek EU aid.

EU urged to grow more wheat to avert food crisis

European agriculture ministers have called for higher domestic farm output, amid food security worries, and a looming food crisis in Africa. Many African countries, eg Benin, Egypt, Sudan, Madagascar, and Burundi, are almost entirely, or exclusively, dependent on Ukrainian grain.

Record number of people fleeing violence, says UN

The least developed countries account for less than 1.3 percent of global GDP yet host 27 percent of the world's displaced populations. High-income countries, by comparison, host 16 percent.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  2. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  4. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic think tank examines influence of tech giants

Latest News

  1. Expect Czech EU presidency to downgrade V4 priorities
  2. Big polluters should have no role in planning EU energy policy
  3. G7, Nato, gas anxiety and Ukraine top This WEEK
  4. Death toll rising after thousands storm Spain's wall in Africa
  5. EU summit's uncertainty in the face of economic war
  6. Next winter's gas looms large at EU summer summit
  7. Ukraine becomes EU candidate after 120 days of war
  8. How to enhance EU cybersecurity

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us