As part of President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to six African nations in July, Russia has started to deliver free grain to the continent. Dmitry Patrushev, the Russian agriculture minister, said on Telegram on Friday that Burkina Faso and Somalia had already received their shipments, while Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Mali, and the Central African Republic would soon follow.
Putin made this promise after he scrapped the Black Sea grain scheme, which allowed Ukraine to export grain from its ports despite the ongoing war with Russia. Putin claimed that the scheme was not effective in reaching the most needy countries and that it lowered the global market prices. Russia, which exported about 60 million tonnes of grain last year, has been bombing Ukrainian ports and grain facilities, destroying hundreds of thousands of tons of cereals. Ukraine, however, announced that it had successfully shipped 4.4 million tonnes of cargo, including 3.2 million tonnes of grain, through a new route established in August.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has severely affected the food security of sub-Saharan Africa, where food inflation has soared and millions of people have faced hunger and starvation. The African Development Bank (AfDB) reported that the conflict caused a 30 million metric tonnes of grain deficit in Africa, leading to a rise in the cost of staple foods such as bread. The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Russia’s free grain donations “a handful of donations” in comparison to the scale of the crisis.