Hope Rises for Nigeria as Putin Agrees to Free Up Ukrainian Grain Exports
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The food inflation as well as scarcity of farm additives in Nigeria occasioned by the war between Russia and Ukraine, may be tempered soon, with President Vladimir Putin assuring African leaders of his readiness to allow their export to the continent.
The federal government had recently lamented that the war was causing another wave of global economic distortion reflecting in the cost of food and fertiliser in the country.
Aside grains export from Ukraine, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said that as a fertiliser-producing country, it has been tough getting potash, a key ingredient in the production of the agricultural commodity, which had led to skyrocketing prices.
“For Nigeria as a producer of fertiliser, one of the major inputs for fertiliser production, potash, is also affected. Now it is scarce and that means that the input is very expensive and we are seeing that reflecting in the cost of fertiliser,” she said.
But in April, Nigeria bought emergency supplies of potash after the country was unable to import the key fertiliser ingredient from Ukraine-Russia due to the impact of the invasion.
However, during a meeting with the Chairperson of the African Union (AU), Senegal’s President Macky Sall, Putin told the representative of African leaders that he was ready to enable the export of Ukrainian grain to ease a global food crisis that is hitting Africa especially hard.
“President Putin has expressed to us his willingness to facilitate the export of Ukrainian cereals,” Sall wrote on Twitter after meeting Putin in his role as chairman of the AU.
Russia was also ready to ensure the export of its own wheat and fertiliser, Sall said, according to Reuters, after the talks in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Sall did not say if Putin had attached any conditions to his offer, but Russia had previously said it is ready to allow vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine in return for the lifting of some Western sanctions against it, a proposal that Ukraine has described as “blackmail”.
Africa is heavily dependent on grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine that have been badly disrupted by the war.
“I have come to see you, to ask you to be aware that our countries, even far from the theatre (of war), are the victims of this economic crisis,” Sall told Putin earlier.
Russia’s army has seized much of Ukraine’s southern coastline and its warships control access to the country’s Black Sea ports. Yet it continues to blame Ukraine and the West for the resulting halt in Ukrainian grain exports.
Putin told Russian state TV in an interview broadcast that Ukraine could export grain from ports including Odesa if it cleared them of mines.
“Let them remove the mines, we guarantee them free passage to international waters,” he said. Putin said the easiest way to ship out Ukrainian grain would be via neighbouring Belarus, but that it would require the West to lift sanctions on on the country.
African countries are acutely affected by the growing crisis, which has sent prices of grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser soaring in recent times.
Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a key global fertiliser exporter and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.
Aside wheat, oil and farm additives, “Trading Economics” recently stated that Nigeria imported as much as $124.61 million worth of iron and steel in 2020, sugar and confectionary worth $8.19 million, pharmaceutical products valued at $7.6 million as well as dairy products worth $2.31 million.
In addition, Nigeria also brings in animal fodder, glass and glassware, textiles, paper and paperboards, edible fruits, organic chemicals , among others from the European country.