"Many African countries use nitrogen-based fertilizer for their food production, and they import about 70 percent of the product from Ukraine and Russia," said Mekonnen.
Tewodros Mekonnen, an economist at the International Growth Center, said that as the Ukrainian conflict drags on, African countries with trade ties with Russia and Ukraine face wheat and fertilizer supply shortages.
"Many African countries use nitrogen-based fertilizer for their food production, and they import about 70 percent of the product from Ukraine and Russia. So with the supply side being affected, they are facing increased import bills," said Mekonnen.
If some compromise by reducing fertilizer imports, food production would shrink and food prices would rise higher. Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that the Food Price Index averaged 159.3 points in March, up 12.6 percent from February, when it had already reached its highest level since its inception in 1990.
According to Mekonnen, countries like Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya are hard hit by soaring energy and food prices. The situation has severely affected their external imbalances and exacerbated inflation at home.
The child malnutrition crisis in the Horn of Africa is on the rise with the region experiencing a prolonged drought & a rapid increase in food prices. Three consecutive failed rainy seasons in Ethiopia, Kenya & Somalia have decimated crops and resulted in the loss of livelihoods. pic.twitter.com/sbVZshtoHH— CGTN Africa (@cgtnafrica) April 8, 2022
Another example is Egypt, which relies on Russia for its wheat. After the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out, the African nation has to tackle hikes in bread prices, Mekonnen said, noting that Russia and Ukraine together account for around 30 percent of global wheat exports.
The conflict comes at a time when many African countries are still struggling to recover from the pandemic and global inflationary pressures. Ethiopia, with annual wheat imports worth US$400 million and fuel imports valued at US$3 billion, found its food and fuel prices both surging because Russia is beleaguered by sanctions, disruptions to energy exports and a potential embargo, said Mekonnen.
Though some fuel exporters, such as Nigeria, Angola and Sudan, and mineral-exporting countries might see growing revenues for the moment, most net commodity importers should work on substituting imports, revamping local production and attracting the foreign direct investment as a way out of the crisis and similar shocks in the future.