Global Agriculture

Sub-Saharan Africa turns to Argentinian wheat

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16 May 2022, Africa: Argentina is set to replace most of the lost Black Sea wheat supplies to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in May. Importers in the region seek to replace shipments from Russia and Ukraine, which have fallen following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

Argentinian wheat totalling 242,650t has been loaded, shipped or is awaiting shipment to Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania in May, according to preliminary line-up data.

The six countries for which historical trade data exists — Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa — are set to receive 147,200t of wheat from Argentina. This is an increase of more than 333pc on the 34,025t that all six countries imported from Argentina in May 2021, according to data from Global Trade Tracker (GTT), and comfortably above the five-year average for May imports of 38,835t.

The surge in shipments of Argentinian wheat to Sub-Saharan Africa comes as major importers around the globe scramble to secure supplies to replace lost shipments from Ukraine, which have collapsed following the Russian blockade of the country’s Azov and Black Sea ports. Ukraine’s grain exports, 90pc of which were traditionally handled by vessels leaving the country’s sea ports, fell by more than 70pc in April, compared with the same period in 2021. There have been attempts to move agricultural products over Ukraine’s western borders by truck and rail but logistical issues continue to plague operations and so exporting pace has slowed significantly in recent weeks.

The six Sub-Saharan countries for which historical trade data exists have imported an average of 12,850t of wheat from Ukraine in May over the past five years, data from GTT suggest. But with Ukraine unable to move product out of the country through its sea ports, the countries have to replace these volumes with wheat from alternative origins.

It is not just Ukrainian shipments that have been impacted. Russia’s wheat exports rose on the year in May but only one shipment is bound for any of the Sub-Saharan countries — 39,700t of milling wheat heading to Kenya, according to Russian line-up data.

This is far lower than the five-year average for imports of Russian-origin wheat by these Sub-Saharan African countries. Excluding Angola, for which historical data does not exist, an average of 259,590t of Russian-origin wheat is usually shipped to the other ten countries in May, according to GTT. This figure is just slightly more than the 242,650t of Argentinian wheat bound for Sub-Saharan Africa in May 2022.

Of the Sub-Saharan countries that are due to receive Argentinian shipments this month, Cameroon and Senegal are the most exposed to reduced May exports from Ukraine and Russia. In Cameroon, 74pc of total wheat imports arrived from Ukraine in May 2021, accounting for 17,000t of product. Senegal relied on Russia for almost 20,000t of wheat imports in May 2021 — over 62pc of the country’s total purchases in the month.

Senegal has now ramped up wheat imports from Argentina significantly. In the previous five years, the country purchased an average of 4,610t of Argentinian wheat in May. The country is set to receive shipments of Argentinian wheat totalling 18,500t in May this year, according to line-up data.

Nigeria and South Africa are the two countries shifting their purchases to Argentinian-origin product the most. Over the past five years, they have averaged imports of 34t and 0.2t of Argentinian wheat in May, respectively. These figures are set to skyrocket in May 2022, rising to 53,500t for Nigeria and 20,000t for South Africa, according to line-up data.

Argentina’s wheat exports to Brazil — the largest importer of Argentinian wheat — will remain strong in May, despite a drastic shift in trade to Sub-Saharan Africa. Wheat bound for Brazil totalling 339,435t has been loaded, shipped or is awaiting loading at Argentinian ports so far in May. The five-year average of Brazilian imports of Argentinian wheat for the whole month is 452,397t.

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