On 4-6 October, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) hosted a regional dialogue on vulnerable farmers’ access to fertilizers. Hosted in eSwatini, the NAMC was invited to present on the impact of Russia-Ukraine conflict to RSA’s food systems.

The purpose of the workshop was to discuss Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Multi-stakeholder dialogue on mitigating the impacts of the Ukraine-Russia conflict on fertilizer access for farmers.

“This invitation was fuelled by the lead role the NAMC played in conducting research on Assessing the impact and vulnerability of Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Food System to Russia-Ukraine Conflict” said Thabile Nkunjana, agricultural economist.

NAMC’s Market and Economics Research Centre (MERC) had been closely monitoring events around the Russia-Ukraine conflict particularly on matters impacting on food price trends. Its Input Cost Monitor Reports including the TradeProbe Magazine had noticed the rising fertilizer prices.

Nkunjana informed the conference that the NAMC warned of four factors underpinning fertilizer prices in SADC; disruptions in the industrial production, prolonged supply chain bottlenecks, higher shipping costs, fertilizer exports restrictions, and Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“SADC is primarily dominated by smallholder farmers who used significantly low fertilizer application rates even before the current fertilizer crises, with the exception of South Africa, which is dominated by large commercial producers. Fertilizer application in SADC has increased from 6kg/ha in 2000 to 19kg/ha in 2021 (estimation), which is still far behind the 137kg/ha average for the world or the 50kg/ha agreed upon under the Abuja Declaration” he said.

The SADC’s cereal-producing countries, mainly South Africa and Tanzania, were major users of fertilizers. Due to the current fertilizer price situation, some farmers in these countries may choose to grow crops that require less fertilizer in order to make a profit.

The NAMC recommended the regional bloc to host dialogues on fertilizers given that a majority of smallholder farmers were net sellers and where ‘likely to see little to no profit from the sale of their products due to high fertilizer prices and low yield.’

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