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Wed Mar 9, 2022, 07:50 PM


How the invasion of Ukraine will spread hunger in the Middle East and Africa


THE LAST time Egypt raised bread prices, the Soviet Union was still intact. Since 1989 subsidised bakeries have offered 20 loaves of aish baladi, a glutinous pita that is the country’s staple, for one Egyptian pound. Back then that sum was worth almost $1. Today it is worth about six cents, less than a tenth of what it costs to produce the bread.

The state spends 45bn pounds ($2.9bn) a year to make up the difference, more than half its total food-subsidy bill. No government has dared tinker with this generous, expensive arrangement. Bread is the main source of calories for millions of Arabs, and thus one of the most sensitive issues in politics. In past decades higher prices led to riots in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and elsewhere.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sent commodity prices surging, may compel Arab governments to think the unthinkable. Costly wheat will blow up budgets in the Middle East, perhaps forcing subsidy cuts that leave citizens hungry. Across sub-Saharan Africa, higher oil prices will strain budgets that are already creaking under the burden of a debt splurge.

All this may mean not just hardship, but also unrest. President Anwar Sadat tried to do away with Egypt’s bread subsidy in 1977; he reversed his decision within days, after riots that had to be quelled by the army. Ethiopia’s revolution of 1974 followed an oil-price shock, which saw taxi drivers take to the streets in protest. Higher food prices in 2008 and 2009 helped set off the revolts of the Arab spring, and protests that eventually led to the toppling of Omar al-Bashir in Sudan in 2019. Many Arab and African governments have refused to express support for either side in the current conflict, arguing that it is not their war. They will soon feel its effects nonetheless.


To me this is a bigger story than oil prices. We can easily absorb the higher prices but starvation and unrest are a real threat in much of the world.

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Reply How the invasion of Ukraine will spread hunger in the Middle East and Africa (Original post)
cinematicdiversions Mar 2022 OP
femmedem Mar 2022 #1

Response to cinematicdiversions (Original post)

Wed Mar 9, 2022, 07:53 PM

1. I've been wondering how contaminated their soil will be after this.

What do I know, but it seems like both an immediate humanitarian disaster and a long term environmental disaster.

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