EU agrees to ease Russia fertilizer curbs after row, angering Ukraine (Politico-Europe)
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The EU resolved a fight by agreeing to ease curbs on Russian fertilizer exports as part of a new sanctions package on Thursday, drawing a rebuke from Ukraine, Politico (Europe) reports.
Both Russia and Western European leaders say their goal is to save Africa from famine.
Fertilizer prices have risen by 199 percent since May 2020, according to the U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP), and fertilizer shortages are estimated to have cut this year’s global production of maize, rice, soybean and wheat by 2.4 percent.
In May, Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, said that if the fertilizer shortages were not mitigated, the continent would face a decline in food production of “at least 20 percent.”
However, that overestimates the risks by a large margin, according to David Laborde Debucquet, a Senior Research Fellow in the Markets, Trade, and Institutions Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Although rising prices will lead to fertilizer shortages globally and “maybe more in Africa,” he explained, to begin with, Africa “depends less on fertilizer to produce.”
Only around 4 percent of Russia’s fertilizer exports went to Africa before the war, he pointed out. While EU sanctions contribute to Africa’s food insecurity, they are only a small part of a much bigger picture: strengthening exemptions for Russian fertilizer and food exports won’t make as much difference in Africa as Western European governments — motivated more by self interest than altruism — claim.
That said, the Eastern bloc is also exaggerating the importance of these exemptions, said Debucquet. Fertilizer and food exports only earn a small share of Russia’s export revenue, and they’re controlled by only a handful of oligarchs. So, while freeing up the flow of agrichemical products might be in the interest of a narrow group of people, “you will never change the Russian position on anything by allowing more or less trade of these.”