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Russia-Ukraine crisis threatens food security in the country, says Agri SA

Agri SA has warned that Russia's ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine not only puts pressure on global oil prices, but also threatens to destabilise trade relations and jeopardise food security. Photo: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Agri SA has warned that Russia's ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine not only puts pressure on global oil prices, but also threatens to destabilise trade relations and jeopardise food security. Photo: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Published Feb 28, 2022

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AGRI SA has warned that Russia's ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine not only puts pressure on global oil prices, but also threatens to destabilise trade relations and jeopardise food security.

Russia and Ukraine are meaningful contributors to the global food chain, accounting for at least 30 percent of the world's wheat exports, 20 percent of maize exports and 80 percent of sunflower oil exports.

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Ukraine's wheat has the greatest impact on food security throughout the world, as the country exported at least 18 million tons of wheat in 2020, making it the world's fifth-biggest wheat exporter.

Wheat prices have risen to the highest level since 2008, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine led to expectations of supply disruptions from two of the world's largest producers. The ongoing war has already wreaked havoc on global financial markets, pushing Brent crude prices to more than $105 (R1 590 )a barrel, the highest in eight years.

Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede said the war will strain Russia and Ukraine's trade relations not only with Western countries, but with South Africa as well.

He said it was inevitable that a lengthy war between Russia and Ukraine would have serious implications for local food prices and the availability of food, as South Africa does not produce enough wheat and is reliant on imports.

“This also applies to the logistical works that must distribute food from one country to another, and specifically from Ukraine and Russia to the rest of the world, as well as the distribution of gas and petroleum,” Van der Rheede said.

“Global food prices continue to rise in line with those of other commodities, and any disruption will result in further price shocks as importing countries scramble for supplies in a market that is already experiencing shortages.

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“Food insecurity will worsen in many developing countries, which rely on certain foodstuffs from Ukraine.”

Trade between South Africa and the two countries has been increasing over the past two decades.

South Africa exported products to the value of R412 million to Ukraine last year, and imported goods valued R748m from Ukraine.

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Top exports from South Africa to Ukraine in 2021 included nickel, propylene polymers, chemical fertilisers and citrus fruit, while South Africa imported wheat, audio alarms, buckwheat, industrial printers, dried legumes and linseed from Ukraine.

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