Are we going to see shortages soon?
We need not fear acute grain shortages in the EU. After all, the EU is projected to be the largest exporter of grain to the world market in 2021/2022, even larger than Russia at number 2. However, Africa should be very concerned. Shortages are to be expected because Africa, especially North Africa, is fed with grain from Ukraine. Political unrest may arise if prices on the world market become unmanageable, causing a greater influx of Africans to the EU.

Cynically, one could argue the war between Russia and Ukraine is a long-term boost to our green energy and food transition
What should the EU do?
Cynically, one could argue the war between Russia and Ukraine is a long-term boost to our green transitions in energy and food. Indeed, the question is whether it is such a good idea to have a world market during periods of political instability. Wouldn't it be better for the EU to be self-sufficient, by fully starting to invest in green energy and, as far as food is concerned, focusing on an EAT-Lancet type of diet? After all, the EAT-Lancet diet is a healthy diet that we can turn into a sustainable food system. For sure, such a shift requires a lot of adaptation and a lot of political courage. Many EU subsidies, for example, still promote animal production instead of a more plant-based diet.

While significant (social) adaptation is needed in the EU, an EAT-Lancet diet is possible in the EU. The same holds true for Asia, North and South America. In Africa and in parts of the Middle East, this diet is not possible. Africa’s food production potential is lagging simply too far behind, I'm told.

Is it better to be self-sufficient than dependent on different regions in the world?
Absolutely. The Europeans, especially, have woken up now. We thought we would create a world order wherein nations would all converge to some kind of universal democratic model. But that is not what happened. By now, it is as clear as day that we don’t share the same type of attitudes at all.

All unconsciously, we have become too dependent, and we are only now really realizing it. For the past 30 years, the EU has done nothing about its dependence on Russian gas. For earth metals, we are heavily dependent on China. For soy, we have made ourselves dependent on countries like Brazil with our eyes wide open. Such worldwide dependencies only work if you assume that everyone is a homo economicus with a democratic attitude.

The EU is vulnerable. To reduce that vulnerability we need to become less dependent. That can be done, among other things, by implementing greening measures and making our agriculture more circular. That's what we should be doing.

I think we need to quickly make the EU independent in a world you can't control
Should the EU close nuclear power plants?
No, not yet. It takes 5 to 10 years to build a wind farm. For a green energy transition as a whole we’ll need a period of at least 10 to 20 years. There are various scenarios for a sustainable food system. Such a system requires new ways of chain management and landscaping.

How do we get through that transition period of perhaps 20 years? Years during which we’ll phase out the old, but have not yet mastered the new. That's the question. We need to rapidly make the EU independent in a world we cannot control. Within the EU, we should seize this momentum for an accelerated green transition. We should start living more economically and use renewable sources already now. The order should be: phase out gas and oil first, then phase out nuclear. Do so, however, using gas rather than coal. That’s preferable from an environmental point of view. European Commissioner Frans Timmermans’ current decision to revert to coal-fired power stations is a very big step backwards. I would not be in favour of it.

How do we deal with the rare earth metals and minerals, which we need so badly for computers, batteries, and cars?
Russia has built its strategic power on its inescapable supply of grains and fossil fuels. China has been even smarter. China has very important mines for rare earths, but it has also operated successfully in Africa. The country has partnered with African countries that are rich in metals like iron and copper, as well as nickel and cobalt. Over the past 10 years, China has gained greater access to metals that it can not provide itself. In this way, China has extended its influence on the world market for (rare) earth metals and elements even further. These raw materials are very important for our energy transition, as they are crucially important for the production of batteries or the magnets of wind turbines.

If the EU is exporting less to the world market by greening, and South America is doing the same, it is critical that within Africa agricultural production and trade flows are boosted
What will happen next?
Russia may be able to keep up the fight for a long time, but it is unlikely Putin will win the war. The EU Member States must, I say with trepidation and regret, arm themselves, accelerate greening, build a relationship with China and renew relations with Africa. If Africa produces food sustainably for Africans, the old continent will give stability to Europe.

South American farmers benefit from our current agriculture; we import their feed. If we go green, we must expect that they will respond by changing strategies. South-America can easily switch to an EAT-Lancet diet, and green its agriculture the same way we can. The same is true for the North American continent.

If the EU exports less to the world market as a result of greening measures, and South America does the same, then it is crucial that Africa boosts its agricultural production and trade flows. This would greatly help the continent, which is currently threatened by grain shortages. The continent has the agricultural potential to do so and it would mean a significant increase in prosperity, if well managed.

On the other hand, in case Africa cannot do so, and South America shifts its existing exports to Africa, things will look very different. In that situation, serious help offered by the EU to improve the self-sufficiency of African countries - without re-colonizing them - may help the EU to acquire better access to the earth metals that are mined there.

In doing so, we’ll reduce our dependence on states that think of us as markets but not as friends: Russia and China.

An interview on Nigerian Television yesterday on the Ukraine-Russia crisis and its impact on food prices.
Nancy Illoh-Nnaji talks to Prof Abba Gambo Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Yobe State Univesity, Dr. Ikechi Agbugba, Reseacher, Agriculture & Applied Economics Dept, Rivers State University, Paul Alaje, Senior Economist & Partner, SPM Professionals.