Shipment of Russian and Ukrainian grain is vital for many African countries, especially those facing crop failure due to weather extremes and internal conflicts.

The Türkiye-brokered Black Sea grain deal will prioritise African countries in need such as Somalia, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"The situation in Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan is not good at all. If there is a problem in any other less developed countries, we will carry out shipments to these countries," Erdogan said last week during a live interview with local media.

Some of these countries are a part of a group of 16 African nations that import the majority of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Djibouti, Burundi, Mauritania, Togo, Cameroon, Senegal, Rwanda, Congo, Libya, Tanzania and Namibia all depend on the warring sides for 50 to 70 percent of their wheat imports.

Meanwhile, Egypt and Madagascar import more than 70 to 80 percent and Somalia imports over 90 percent of their wheat requirement. 

And the African country most dependent on the grain deal is Eritrea – importing 100 percent of its grain from Ukraine and Russia.

Lack of grain imports for these vulnerable countries can further exacerbate the already strained conditions, such as in Somalia where an estimated 4.1 million people are currently in need of food assistance due to droughts, insecurity, conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic.

International charity organisation Islamic Relief’s country director for Somalia, Aliow Mohamed, tells TRT World the war in Ukraine has heavily impacted food security in the country.

"Ukraine grains being imported usually help in reducing and managing overall food commodity prices in case there is failure due to scanty rainfall and or in case farmers didn’t grow," he says.

"However, the impact caused by the war in Ukraine meant unavailability of enough grains in the country/market, which (in turn) means high prices in the local markets, which also means unavailability of food to many households in Somalia," he adds.

Mohamed says the situation "remains calamitous" as hope of the October-December short rainfall being above average and bringing relief to the country dwindled.

"This means, the fifth failure of the season is likely… after all, even if the rain is sufficient, the recovery of the community may not be immediate as almost all the livestock perished in the drought," says Mohamed.

So far, Somalia has received around 28.5 thousand tonnes of commodities under the Black Sea Grain initiative since 3 August 2022, according to UN data.

Mohamed quotes media reports that more grain is on its way to eastern African countries, but also urges additional humanitarian support to prevent famine.

READ MORE: Somalia desperate for April rainfall to end a deadly drought season

Alarming situation across country

As part of its Pan-Africa Zero Hunger Initiative, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is also providing humanitarian assistance to several Ukraine-grain dependent African nations.

One example is Senegal, which imports over 50 percent of their wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia. Some 881,000 Senegalese people were expected to suffer from hunger during June-August if strong and urgent measures are not taken.

Moustapha Diallo, IFRC Senior Communications Officer of the Sahel Cluster Office, tells TRT World that in Senegal's hardest-hit areas, family food stocks have run out and thousands of people struggle to meet their daily food needs.

"Like many countries in Africa and around the world, Senegal sees a rise in many food prices, as the result of the impacts of the conflict in Ukraine," Diallo says. "So many communities have adopted negative coping mechanisms by reducing the number of meals, selling their assets, or migrating."

Diallo says he believes the grain deal "will help to mitigate the rise in market prices" but also urges for further sustainable solutions to address the root causes of food insecurity and build community resilience. 

Mialy Caren Ramanantoanina, the Communications Officer of IFRC's Eastern Africa Cluster Office, tells TRT World that Madagascar's planting of crops in 2022 has been delayed due to a poor start to the season.

When harvests don’t meet the needs, the population turns to an alternative diet based on tubers and cactus in the Anosy region, Ramanantoanina explains.

"In terms of livelihoods, some people turn to the [dangerous] exploitation of Mica, which allows them to earn around 800Ar (0.19 dollars) per day, enough to buy a little rice," Ramanantoanina says.

 "So it is important that sufficient and adequate resources and materials related to agriculture and livelihoods are continuously available in the country," Ramanantoanina adds.

Over 10M in grain deliveries

On July 22, Türkiye, the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul to resume grain exports through the Black Sea, allowing the passage of much-needed wheat and corn to countries across the globe.

So far, more than 10 million tonnes of commodities have been shipped worldwide under the Black Sea Grain initiative, according to UN data. Corn and wheat are the highest commodity types shipped at 4.3 million tonnes the former and 2.9 million tonnes the latter.

Exports had been paused after the war began in February and briefly following Russia’s announcement that it would suspend participation in the grain deal over alleged Ukrainian attacks on its Black Sea fleet. 

However, after a few days of uncertainty last month, Türkiye and Russia announced Moscow’s return to the grain deal bringing relief to international leaders who wish to see the deal expanded.

Alongside strengthening the grain deal, Ankara is also determined to transport Russian fertiliser to underdeveloped countries, Erdogan said after a bilateral meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Kazakh capital Astana last month.

"We may work on determining the name of countries. It is important that we focus on the poor countries rather than developed countries," Erdogan said.

Similar to wheat imports, many African countries are dependent on Russia for their fertiliser needs, such as Ghana which imports around 50 percent of its fertilisers from Moscow.

READ MORE: Türkiye's Erdogan vows to send grain, fertilisers to countries in need

Source: TRT World