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Russia-Ukraine conflict affects Zimbabwe's daily bread

by Staff reporter
13 Mar 2022 at 08:03hrs | Views
THE ongoing Russian-Ukraine tiff will impact negatively on global wheat supply.

Both Russia and Ukraine, once jointly dubbed the "breadbasket of Europe", account for 25 percent of the world's wheat export supply. World wheat export ranking in 2021 put Russia at the top of the rankings with US $8 billion receipts per annum and Ukraine in fifth place with US$ 3, 5 billion. These two countries together with United States of America, Canada and France account for 63, 8 percent of global wheat export supply.

Prior to this military operation, the World Food Programme reported that the number of people facing potential starvation worldwide had already risen from 80 million to 276 million in four years prior to the current conflict, climate change and coronavirus.

Zimbabwe is one the biggest net importers of Russian wheat. The vessels are loaded at various ports which include St Petersburg, Novorossiysk and Kaliningrad. They then sail down the Indian Ocean passing or stopping over Mombasa, Maputo and then Beira. Local millers then collect from Beira to Harare, through the eastern border with Mozambique.

Russian wheat accounts for circa 55 percent of our imported wheat as it is the lowest priced and rich in nutrient composition. It is mainly used to produce flour for bread, biscuits, household baking (most ideal for rural communities) and other confectionery.

Bread in Zimbabwe is the biggest source of carbohydrates for ordinary households and a must-have on the diet of the 2-35 age group. The importance of bread is not only nutritional but it even has an influence in the attainment and sustenance of peace and order in any country.

Bread played a dark role in French history. Poor grain harvests led to riots dubbed the Grande Rebeyne (Great Rebellion), as far back as 1529, in the French city of Lyon. In the 1700s, The French revolution was obviously caused by a multitude of grievances more complicated than the price of bread, but bread shortages played a role in stoking anger toward the monarchy.

In 1795, there were a series of extensive disorders in Britain over the scarcity and high price of provisions, especially wheat and bread. In 1917, 90,000 men and women took to the streets resulting in the overthrow of the monarchy.

In Africa, in 2018, bread shortages triggered riots in Khartoum, Sudan, partly contributing to the overthrow of the then President Omar al-Bashir.

Zimbabwe has been managing to ensure sufficient supply of bread nationwide through a number of locally made initiatives. The Government-sponsored wheat farming programmes have recorded the highest yields since the commencement of wheat farming in Zimbabwe.

It is prudent that a country with such a huge youth dividend and fast-growing population is self-contained in the provisions of cereal. Demand for wheat is growing exponentially largely due to dietary preference changes by the 2-35 age group. National wheat annual demand has grown from 300 000 metric in 2010 to 370 000 metric tonnes in 2021.

The country is currently consuming 16 000 metric tonnes of bread flour monthly, and circa 1 200 000 loaves a day. Demand for bread is expected to increase as aggregate demand improves, owing to removal of Covid-19 induced lockdowns. Wheat constitutes 30-42 percent of the cost of bread.

In the past 60 days, prices of wheat that has landed in Harare and Bulawayo have moved from US$480 to US$670 per metric tonne, and price surges continue. The 2021 local winter wheat harvest saved the country US$146 million and proved to be a profitable import substitution transaction. However, the country will require to import 155 000 metric tonnes of wheat to mitigate  the variance between local production and national demand.

The Russian-Ukraine conflict simply reminds all of us that we need to till the land and provide for our food. Geopolitics is unpredictable and mutates very fast. To date, all countries in Africa remain net importers of wheat and that situation is untenable.

We are no longer asking whether we are in a crisis, but how bad the crisis is!

Tafadzwa Musarara is the Chairman of the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe. You may contact him on gceo@consolidate

<mailto: gceo@consolidate

Source - The Sunday Mail