African ministers on Friday outlined the impact that the global food crisis is having on their countries and added their voices to calls for action.
The ministers made the call to action at a ministerial conference in Berlin, convened by the German government, as current head of the G7 group. The conference highlighted the impact of soaring food prices, brought on by the Russia-Ukraine war. As a result of the conflict, the African Development Bank estimates that the continent faces a deficit of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from the two European countries. The Bank has responded with a $1.5 billion food facility.
The main goal of the conference was to coordinate responses to the global food crisis. It brought together ministers from the G7 wealthiest nations and Champions of the UN Secretary General’s Global Crisis Response Group, as well as the most vulnerable and most affected countries, among others.
Christian Mwando Nsimba Kabulo, Minister of Planning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said as a result of price hikes, his government had been forced to raise value-added tax on basic foods, and subsidize products such as fuel. He called for an end to hostilities in Ukraine, and the east of his own country, which is exacerbating the crisis.
“Of course this has enormous consequences for the national budget of my country and it makes the efforts for greater resilience more difficult…this crisis is being worsened by the war that is occurring in the east of my country, which threatens to destabilize the region…and destabilize the situation of millions of women and children,” he said.
“We need to support agricultural production in regions that have already been identified and we have to support local production for new agricultural activity and cultivation. We have to support intra-African development and trade by setting up transnational infrastructure and by activating the free trade area.”
Tunisia’s Agriculture Minister, Mahmoud Elyes Hamza, said he expected that more countries would need food aid in the year ahead.
“As a consequence of the war in Ukraine, we find ourselves in an extremely difficult position. The prices for food have increased dramatically. A vast part of our imports come from Ukraine and the situation thus is extremely difficult. The same is true for fertilizers, prices have increased, and this is undoubtedly going to have an effect on production in our country. There will be problems with the availability of food but also fragile development for the population. It’s a concerning development with regard to food security in the coming year,” Hamza said.
Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar said his country had taken a number of steps to counter the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, such as adjusting tariffs and surcharge levels on a number of commodities to discourage imports, and dropping import duties on agricultural equipment. He urged developed nations to take the conference theme of unity beyond the venue in Berlin.
“Let this unity mean opening up market access. Let it open up access to raw materials, let it open up access to agricultural financing, capacity building, equipment for mechanization. This is what the unity should reflect. Let it also be that this unity goes beyond the conference room where we are now, down to the local areas, down to the farms, to the rural dwellers of developing countries especially, who need it the most. Let this unity go beyond and not just wait until when you the developed countries start shipping food to the developing nations,” Abubakar said.
Other African ministers at the conference included South Africa’s Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza; Sierra Leone’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Abu Bakarr Karim; Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, Rania Al-Mashat; and Mauritania’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Productive Sectors, Ousmane Kane.