In a bid to attain a medium and long-term measure of ensuring food security in the sub-region, ECOWAS has recommended changes in dietary habits to reduce imports of foods that are produced far away from the region.
It also suggested the shortening of global supply chains by investing in regional and local production, transformation and agro-processing capacities as well as increasing investments into the agricultural sector and, at least, reaching the Malabo Declaration target.
A study on the assessment of the risks and impact of the Russian-Ukrainian agriculture production in the ECOWAS region showed that the dependence of ECOWAS countries on conflict countries makes them even more vulnerable to external fluctuations.
It further noted that it threatens the socio-political environment of member states.
“The rise of chemical fertilizers’ prices, for which Russia and Ukraine are the main sources of imports for several countries in the region, is a threat for the next agricultural season. Main cereals imported in ECOWAS Rice and wheat are the main cereals imported, representing respectively 50 percent and 44 percent share of imported cereals in the ECOWAS sub-region. All cereals combined, at the ECOWAS level, cereal imports from Russia and Ukraine were around 12 percent in 2020,” it said.
According to the study, although at the regional level the dependence on wheat is not significant, “if we look at the national level, many countries will be seriously affected by the crisis in Ukraine. Countries such as Benin, Cabo Verde, Gambia, Senegal, and Togo are heavily dependent on trade with Russia and Ukraine for more than 50 percent of their import share.”
Worsening food insecurity
The study also referred to findings from the Cadre Harmonisé on Food Security (March-May 2022) which indicated that the food and nutrition situation may worsen during the projected period (June-August 2022) marked by the food gap for countries in the northern part of the region.
“The number of food-insecure areas is increasing and expanding to new regions, resulting in high food insecurity rates. Compared to the 2021 lean season, severe food insecurity rates (corresponding to the crisis to worst phases) increase from 27.1 percent to 38.2 percent, an increase of 70 percent,” it said.
“It is important to note that these projections have not taken into account the effects of the Ukrainian crisis, which means that, the proportions of food insecurity could be very alarming during the 2022 lean season,” the study further indicated.
It is in this direction that it suggested, among other things, that in the medium and long-term, member states “reinforce national and regional stock food reserves to be more effective in responding to these shocks.”
“Support the private sector in increasing food transformation and production of fertilizers locally and regionally. Promote climate-smart agriculture and the use of organic fertilizers while supporting the development of local and regional value chains,” it added.
With regard to short-term measures, the study underscored the need to “remove the barriers to trade and stop export bans as we should reduce the pressure on markets by increasing supplies of food and fertilizers.”
“Support local food production, facilitating smallholders’ access to fertilizers produced and stocked locally,” and among other things, “develop a robust group purchase mechanism at the scale of port and road corridors in the ECOWAS region, mobilising large producers in
the region to meet the demands of fertilizer blenders and importers.”