African Union chair alarmed by export halt





BRUSSELS — The chair of the African Union, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, has told European Union leaders that Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports is paving the way for a “catastrophic scenario” of widespread shortages and price hikes across his continent.

In an address to leaders gathered in Brussels Tuesday for a summit focused on helping Ukraine, Sall said that a halt to grain and fertilizer exports via the Black Sea is very worrying for a continent hosting 282 million undernourished people. He said that the price of fertilizer across Africa has already tripled compared to 2021.

“According to some estimates, cereal yields in Africa will fall by 20 to 50 percent this year,” Sall said. “We would like to see everything possible done to free up available grain stocks and ensure transportation and market access.”

Charles Michel, the EU Council president, said that “the EU is sparing no efforts to free Ukraine’s exports over land and exploring alternative sea routes.”

African countries imported 44% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to U.N. figures. The African Development Bank is already reporting a 45% increase in wheat prices on the continent.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

Russia’s top diplomat has again blamed the hampering of exports of Ukrainian grain and a global food crisis on Kyiv and the West.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia guarantees “free export of Ukrainian grain by ships that are now locked in Ukrainian ports,” but first Ukraine needs to “de-mine the coastal waters that are in the territorial sea of Ukraine.”

Lavrov told a news conference after meeting with his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani that if that is done, “in the open sea … Russia’s naval forces will ensure the unimpeded passage of these ships to the Mediterranean Sea and further to their destinations,”

He also blamed Western nations for creating “a flurry of artificial problems with closing their ports for Russian vessels, with cutting logistical and financial chains.” He added that they must “seriously think what is more important for them — to do PR on the issue of the food security or solve the problem with concrete steps.”

___