Sekou Sangare, commissioner, agriculture, environment, and water resources, ECOWAS, disclosed this while delivering a report at the ongoing 2022 first ordinary session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja on Tuesday.
The commission asked African Union (AU) member states to improve farmers’ access to fertilisers through the provision of subsidies to the fertiliser sector to ensure food security.
Sangare said due to the ongoing war in Ukraine it would be disastrous if urgent steps are not taken to address the menace.
He said the war has worsened the food and nutritional situation in the region as it distorted supply chains, and increased the prices of food and fertilisers.
“The war between Ukraine and Russia, which started at the end of February, has had aggravating effects on the difficult food and nutritional situation in all the countries of the region,” he said.
“It has aggravated the grain deficit in the region with, in particular, the disruption of the food supply chain, the amplification of the rise in food prices, and the price of fertilisers.
“The two countries in conflict are major suppliers on the international markets and also suppliers of wheat, maize, edible oils, and fertilizers for the majority of ECOWAS member countries.
“The price of mineral fertilisers continued to increase in 2020 and 2021 in the wake of the surge in the price of natural gas and the difficulties in the transport logistics chain.
“As a result, the prices of all local and imported foodstuffs recorded in the region’s markets are particularly high this year.”
Sangare further said aside from the food menace, insecurity, massive displacement of populations, climate change and harassment at borders poses threat to food shortage in the sub-region.
He, however, added that several measures have been taken, including tax exemptions on the import of foodstuffs, price controls, and cash transfer operations.
“The ministerial technical committee in charge of agriculture in collaboration with the commissioner of agriculture met in May and June 2022 to discuss the constraints,” he said.
“And together, identify appropriate and effective measures to ensure the correct supply of our farmers with fertilizers, facilitate cross-border transactions of foodstuffs and fertilizers, and mitigate the impacts of the food crisis and the Russian-Ukrainian war.
“Finally strengthen the resilience of agri-food systems in West Africa and the Sahel.
“Following numerous discussions with associations of professional agricultural organisations, the West African Association of Fertilizer Professionals, ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development and West African Bank of Development (BOAD) and other technical and financial partners, the following main measures were adopted.
“With immediate effect, African Union member states should improve farmers’ access to fertilisers through the provision of subsidies to the fertiliser sector, with the support of Africa’s development partners, with a focus on poor farmers.
“Lift the restrictions taken by the member states on the free movement of foodstuffs such as rice, maize, soya, sorghum, millet, roots and tubers: cassava, yam, fruits, and vegetables. Livestock, meat, fisheries and aquaculture within the community area.
“Urgently mobilise internal financial resources to assist people affected by the crisis within the framework of social protection net projects: cash transfer, food for work.”