Ukraine and Russia

WARRING neighbours, Russia and Ukraine, signed a pact to allow stockpiled grains to be exported through the blockaded Black Sea ports over penultimate weekend. The pact was brokered by Turkey under the watchful eyes of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres.

Under the pact, Ukraine is allowed to export grain through its Odessa port. UN-backed Turkey will inspect the ships to ensure they are not used to traffic weapons, and escort them through the mines-infected Sea for export to the wider world. Russia will also be able to export grains and fertiliser to benefit its trade which has been hampered by Western sanctions.

If this pact holds, it will be a win-win for all parties concerned – Russia, Ukraine and the rest of the world which depend on grains and fertiliser from the warring countries for their sustenance. These include countries in the semi-arid Horn of Africa and even Nigeria.

The six-month-old war which locked in the world’s largest grains reserves, has led to high cost of food in many countries and threatens global food security. The West describes Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports as “weaponisation of food” but Russia blames Western sanctions for the disruptions.

Back on March 11, 2022, just a couple of weeks after Russian invasion of February 24, foremost industrialist, Aliko Dangote, warned of impending food shortages as from June this year at the fourth Nigerian Annual Food Processing Nutrition Leadership Forum in Lagos.

He disclosed that Nigerian industrial food processors depended heavily on wheat flour, maize flour and fertiliser supplies from the two embattled countries.

His warning has come true because the price of bread has steadily risen towards the N1,000 mark. Bakers are groaning about the high cost of inputs such as wheat flour and sugar. Indeed, the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria declared a strike last week, serving notice that on resumption, bread would cost 20 per cent more.

The export deal comes as a major relief for the world. We urge the UN and Turkey to maintain their commendable engagement with Russia and Ukraine and de-weaponise food.

The West should also review some of its sanctions and allow Russia export food. We hope the food pact will lead to other pacts that will end the war.

Nigeria is richly blessed with arable land and citizens eager to unlock its food potentials. Nigeria has no business depending on foreign countries for food. We should be selling food to others.

We must end our bad habit of electing unhealthy, corrupt and incompetent leaders whose only interest in leadership is to gratify personal ambitions. We need a leadership which can defeat our security threats and unleash industrial-scale agriculture for our food security and exports.

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