The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has issued a warning to Nigeria and other African countries to brace for higher food prices as a result of recent developments that have temporarily stopped Ukraine’s food exports to African nations. USAID’s Deputy Administrator for Policy and Programming, Isobel Coleman, conveyed this message during a virtual press conference.
Russia’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative has led to a surge in global food prices. Developing countries heavily reliant on grain imports from Ukraine, including Nigeria, are particularly vulnerable to the impact of these rising prices. The Black Sea Grain Initiative, aimed at facilitating commercial food and fertilizer exports from key Ukrainian ports, faced disruptions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
The resulting rise in food prices and the threat of famine in lower-income countries has raised concerns about Russia potentially weaponizing food supplies. Discussions in April 2022 led to an agreement in Istanbul in July of the same year to address the issue. However, on July 17, 2023, the deal expired, and Russia refused to renew it, citing global sanctions as a reason.
As a significant importer of grain from Ukraine, Nigeria would inevitably face higher food prices due to the termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. USAID remains resolute in seeking alternative means for Ukraine to export its grain without maritime hindrances. The US government has also invested substantially in making developing countries more resilient to food crises through initiatives like ‘Feed The Future.’
The dire situation has been exacerbated by Russia’s announcement that any ship heading towards Ukrainian ports will be viewed as military targets, resulting in damage to port facilities and infrastructure, and the destruction of grain crops. USAID urges caution against allowing Russia to capitalize on a crisis it has caused, emphasizing the need to explore sustainable solutions to ensure food security in affected countries.