Cameroon Blames War Between Russia and Ukraine for Wheat Shortage

FILE - Farmers harvest with their combines in a wheat field near the village Tbilisskaya, Russia, July 21, 2021.

Cameroon’s government says Russia's war on Ukraine is responsible for a wheat shortage that has led to a 40 percent increase in the price of bread. The central African state is encouraging local substitutes like cassava and yams to replace the wheat usually imported from Russia and Ukraine.

More than 40 consumers are waiting for bread Monday morning at the La Mama bakery in Mokolo, a neighborhood in Cameroon’s capital.

Youssoufa Daouda, who sells bread at the bakery, said in the past two weeks the bakery has served less than 200 of its usual 500 daily customers.

He said importers informed bakers in the first week of March of a potential shortage of wheat in Cameroonian markets because countries that supply wheat to Cameroon were at war. Daouda said the price of a 50-kilogram bag of wheat increased from $35 to between $50 and $60, and the supply is not regular.

Cameroon says 13 million of its 26 million citizens who consume bread daily no longer have a regular supply.

Cameroon’s Minister of Trade Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana presided over a meeting with bakery owners and wheat importers on Monday meant to educate consumers associations that the shortage of wheat is a result of the war in Ukraine.

Atangana said anyone who is informed and is honest will not disagree that the war between Russia and Ukraine is having disastrous consequences on economies all over the world. He said the war has deprived Cameroon of about 60 percent of wheat imported from both Ukraine and Russia, and the government is very worried because the absence of wheat can cause a social crisis in Cameroon.

Atangana said Cameroon's Prime Minister, Joseph Dion Ngute, asked the ministers in charge of agriculture and trade to find alternatives to wheat imports.

Cameroon produces less than one-fourth of the 1.6 million tons of wheat it needs each year. Last year, it imported more than 850,000 tons from Russia and Ukraine.

Delor Magellan Kamseu Kamgaing, president of Cameroon’s Consumers League, said Cameroonians should learn to consume bread made without wheat imported from Ukraine and Russia. He said local substitutes, including tubers like cassava, yams and potato, can replace imported wheat. He added that it's imperative the government provide funding and tractors to farmers to increase tuber production to spare Cameroon from a looming social crisis.

Other countries in Africa and the Middle East are also facing wheat shortages due to the war in Ukraine. On Monday, the head U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development, Gilbert Houngbo, warned the situation “could cause an escalation of hunger and poverty, with dire implications for global stability.”