Zimbabwe has asked Russia for more supplies of agricultural commodities and to start fuel supplies, an official says.
The Ukraine war has disrupted supplies of wheat from Russia, the world’s number one wheat exporter. Russian exports to Zimbabwe, a major importer of Russian wheat and fertilisers, have been hit.
At a meeting of the Russian-Zimbabwean Intergovernmental Commission in Harare last week, Zimbabwe pushed for more wheat, vegetable oils and petroleum from Russia, according to Russian Natural Resources and Environment Minister Alexander Kozlov.
“The government of Zimbabwe has proposed to increase the volumes of wheat and vegetable oil supplies and start deliveries of petroleum products,” Kozlov told Interfax.
Zimbabwe’s Ministries of Agriculture and Energy are now drafting a specific request to Russia, showing the number of additional deliveries and the logistical chains.
In 2021, Russia supplied 11,900 tonnes of wheat to Zimbabwe, up from 810 tonnes in 2019, according to data from Russia’s Union of Grain Exporters.
Zimbabwe: Grain imports
While Zimbabwe grew one of its biggest wheat crops last year, millers still import wheat to mix with local grain to make high-quality bread. Supplies have been disrupted for months.
“As early as November last year, we were unable to load wheat from that region because political tensions had gone high, and insurers revoked their coverages. This is a supplier who was supplying us with good wheat, accounting for 65% of the wheat that we need,” Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe head Tafadzwa Musarara said recently.
Musarara said a consignment of Zimbabwe’s wheat had been stuck in Mariupol, after a Russian siege on the Ukrainian city.
Zimbabwe imports about a quarter of a million tonnes of nitrate fertiliser from Russia annually. While there is enough in stock to allow the growing of wheat this winter, industry players say there is likely to be little left for maize in the summer. If sourced from elsewhere, fertilizer prices are likely to surge.
“Zimbabwe’s exposure to the Russia and Ukraine conflict is that of nitrate,” said Graeme Barr, managing director of Nutrimaster, the Innscor unit that imports fertiliser into Zimbabwe. “There is no plan B. Prices for nitrate are going to soar.”
Grain exports were the centre of talks last Friday between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Senegal’s Macky Sall, chair of the African Union.
Africa got 44% of its wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to U.N. figures. Wheat prices are up 45% due to supply disruptions, the African Development Bank says.