A policy and development expert, Rotimi Sankore, has warned that the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine will worsen food security in Nigeria, other African countries and the Middle East.
Sankore, who is the Editor in Chief of the Africa Centre for Development Journalism, made this known on Tuesday during the PUNCH Media Foundation webinar series themed ‘Food Security, Nutrition and Food Safety: The Role of Stakeholders in Achieving Better Health Through Safer Food’.
While clarifying the difference between food security and sufficiency, he noted that the former means a country can grow or import all the food it needs and the latter refers to when a country can produce most of the food it needs.
Sankore said, “The war in Ukraine has opened many people’s eyes to the fact that between Russia and Ukraine, they produce most of the wheat that is used globally and that that ongoing war is going to result in more widespread hunger, especially in Africa and the middle east.
“Are the Nigerian policymakers preparing for this? I doubt it. We saw what happened during the EndSARS protests when people suffering from mass hunger which preceded the lockdown but which was made worse by the lockdown, were looting warehouses, grabbing packets of noodles, bags of rice, and even some of the uniformed personnel that were supposed to help with law and order, you could see them smiling sheepishly as they put one packet of noodles under one arm and looking sideways to see if anybody spotted them. But the really key thing here is that we also saw women carrying babies on their backs, going to grab food and that tells you immediately that the level of food insecurity in Nigeria is seriously underestimated.
“So when the scarcity of wheat hits Nigeria because there is a lag in it, you know, last year’s harvest of wheat has been processed, exported and being distributed globally. This year’s harvest of wheat from Ukraine and Russia has been impeded. Some of it can’t be harvested, some have been harvested (but) can’t be exported because the ports through which it is going to be exported especially from Ukraine are not functional and Russia has been sanctioned.
“So food insecurity in countries like Nigeria is about to get worse, especially in relation to staples like noodles and bread. We already saw the master bakers association declare for instance intention of industrial action, not because of the wheat now but because they say and it is true; the price of diesel has skyrocketed the price of flour and sugar has skyrocketed, so it’s about to get worse.
“So food security means when a country or a citizen, at all times, have both physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs for a productive and healthy life, Sadly, Nigeria is neither food secure nor food sufficient and it has resulted in widespread malnutrition.
“Now as everybody knows or should know, malnutrition has a severe impact on people’s health. If you turn the back of any sachet, I mean we’re now in a sachet economy, people are in mass poverty. When I was younger, we bought large things of milk and large beverages that you had to hold with two hands but now you buy everything in sachets. Sachet milk, beverage, vegetable oil, even ogogoro (and) the so-called high-end drinks like Amarula and Irish cream are now in sachets,” Sankore lamented.