Cameroon President Paul Biya says the government will increase funding to grow more wheat after protests over wheat shortages and price spikes sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Before Russia’s Black Sea blockade, Cameroon imported 60 percent of its wheat from Ukraine. The cut-off has led to a nearly 50 percent increase in the price of bread.
Cameroon government says President Paul Biya on Monday ordered an immediate disbursement of over $15 million to grow wheat in the central African state.
Cameroon’s agriculture minister, Gabriel Mbairobe, says Biya responded to pleas from civilians that the cost of living is becoming very high, and many Cameroonians are finding it very difficult to put food on the table.
Mbairobe says Russia’s war in Ukraine has completely disrupted supply chains of consumer goods, especially wheat, which is the main staple food in Cameroon. He says investing in wheat production is a wise decision because each Cameroonian consumes 33 kilograms of wheat each year which is far more than 23 kilograms of rice each Cameroonian eats annually. He says wheat can be grown in several places in Cameroon.
The government says Cameroon produces less than one-fourth of the 1.6 million tons of wheat it needs each year. Last year, the government imported more than 850,000 tons from Russia and Ukraine. Now, according to the Cameroon Importers Union, up to 25,000 tons have been imported since January 2022.
Mbairobe says while the nation waits for its own newly planted wheat to be harvested before the end of the year, local substitutes like sweet potato, cassava and yams should replace the wheat Cameroon imports from Russia and Ukraine.
Cameroon says while baking bread, backers should replace imported wheat with local substitutes such as cassava, yams and potato.
Biya's instructions for more than $15 million to be invested to grow more wheat comes after several weeks of nationwide protest against cereal shortages. The shortage of wheat has led to a close to 50 percent increase in the price of bread.
Delor Magellan Kamseu Kamgaing, the president of Cameroon’s Consumers League, says his league organized the protests to force the government to take immediate actions that will reduce growing hunger and anger among civilians.
Kamgaing says after COVID-19, Russia's war in Ukraine is leading to severe food shortages and unprecedented hikes in the prices of imported staple foods like cereals. He says people are hungry and unable to afford bread which is consumed by a majority of households in Cameroon. Kamgaing says the government should dialogue with its citizens and take measures that will stop a looming famine.
Kamgaing said the government should provide fertilizers and subsidies to local farmers to increase plantain, rice, yam and cassava production.
Kamgaing said the war in Ukraine though causing sufferings, should provide an opportunity for Cameroon to invest in its local industries and stop over dependency on imports.
The government says the money ordered by Biya will either be used in buying fertilizers or paid out as subsidies to wheat farmers. Some of the money will be used to purchase tractors.
The U.N. reports that 1.7 billion people in 107 economies including 41 African countries are exposed to either rising food prices, rising energy prices or tightening financial conditions as a result of Russia's war in Ukraine.