Dear fellow Ugandans, some of you are content that the Russian-Ukraine war is far away and has no direct consequence to your daily lives. Wrong. Think about wheat-based goodies that Ugandans have come to prioritize in our diets – daddies, bread, cakes, etc. Food for thought, is there a celebratory function in Uganda these days where cakes don’t feature?
Most of all, one of the foods that the Government of Uganda promotes as “Ugandan food” is ‘rolex’ – an omelette rolled in a chapati. There is a whole smallholder economy that has been built around ‘rolex’ – wheat importers, thousands of street food vendors who make and sell ‘rolex’ and consumers.
You recall that early this year, Raymond Kahuma made a 204.6kg ‘rolex’ that won a Guinness World Record and “put Uganda on the world map”, as ‘rolex’ enthusiasts celebrate. Apparently, in order to make his Guinness record winning ‘rolex’, Kahuma used 72kg of wheat.
Yes, the major ingredient for making Uganda’s celebrated ‘Rolex’, daddies, bread and cakes is wheat. Uganda, however, is a net importer of wheat. The economic value of the wheat that Uganda imports is less than one percent of the economic value of the wheat it exports.
Case in point, according to OEC, in 2019, Uganda imported wheat valued at USD 85.5M – of which Russia was the second largest supplier – supplying Uganda with wheat valued at USD 27.5M. In comparison, in 2019, Uganda exported wheat valued at only USD 16.1K.
Russia and Ukraine, it is reported, produce and supply over 30 percent of the wheat that is consumed around the world. Now, if our major producers and suppliers of wheat are at war, what do you think will happen to the supply side of things? Yes, the knock-on effect is obviously higher prices for wheat-based products.
Will Ugandans continue to afford wheat-based products? How many businesses and livelihoods in Uganda will go burst, if the war situation further escalates and Russia-Ukraine relations are not quickly restored to peaceful co-existence? And, by the way, how is the Government of Uganda preparing for the worst-case scenario, if at all?