Nigeria, others at high risk of food crisis, warns BCG

Nigeria and 44 other countries are at high risk of a food crisis stemming from the Ukraine war, according to a study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) – a leading global management consulting firm.

The report titled ‘The War in Ukraine and the Rush to Feed the World,’ explores in detail the multiple direct and indirect impacts of the turmoil in Ukraine on global food systems.

According to the report, the affected countries concentrated in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, were hotspots around the world as they were enduring some of the worst effects of the crisis.

It stated that Nigeria and the other affected countries face severe levels of extreme poverty, compounded by the ongoing economic and social challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional factors worsening the food crisis identified in the report include heavy reliance on food imports, high import bills, high inflation, a high debt burden, climate risks, and civil unrest.

“The impact of the Ukraine war on our food systems calls for critical and immediate review of our budgetary allocation. Currently, Nigeria spends over 27 times of its Agriculture allocation to service its debt,” said Stefano Niavas, managing director and partner at BCG Nigeria, while commenting on the findings.

“Compounded with the Ukraine war and the lingering challenges of COVID-19, the average ddebt-t-GDP ratio across the continent is expected to rise from 60% to 70percent,”he said.

Read also: Increasing food shortage to worsen malnutrition

To minimise the impact of the crisis on Nigeria’s food systems, he urged the government and all critical stakeholders to ensure stabilising the rising cost of food and fertilizer by the provision of viable seedlings, supporting the growth of alternative nutritious grains, driving the adoption of innovative farm practices. “The introduction of alternative sources of fertilizer will help reduce the country’s reliance on food imports,” he added.

Together, Russia and Ukraine account for about 12 percent of the total food calories traded globally, and both are critical exporters of key commodities such as wheat (28percent of global trade) and sunflower oil (69percent), according to the International Food Policy Institute.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) buys from Ukraine half of the wheat it distributes around the world to Internal Displaced Persons. Further, as exports from these countries tumble, some other leading exporting countries have announced trade policy restrictions to protect their domestic economies.

“While this crisis will impact all of us around the world in significant ways, low-income economies risk devastation and potential unrest,” said Ertharin Cousin, CEO and founder of Food Systems for the Future, and a co-author of the report.

“We’re not just talking about the poorest of the poor, who are already suffering from hunger. We’re also talking about people who could recently afford a loaf of bread for their families and who now will be unable to do so.”

The BCG report co-authored with Food Systems for the Future also provides 30 near- and medium-term solutions to help respond to the crisis and improve the resilience of global food systems.

Relieving the current crisis requires, most importantly, a coordinated and immediate emergency humanitarian response by all stakeholders—governments, development institutions and banks, NGOs, and private companies—to meet the most pressing needs for humanitarian aid.

They must provide not only food and financial support, but also the seeds, inputs, tools, and technical assistance needed to support in-country sustainable intensification and other crop substitution actions. The report outlines a solution set of 30 key recommendations for all stakeholders.

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