MENA faces a crisis as the world’s key wheat producers are at war | Business and Economy News


Istanbul, Turkey – As two of the world’s key wheat producers face off in an all-out battle, tomorrow appears to be like grim for the Center East and North Africa (MENA) international locations that want wheat from Ukraine and Russia.

Russia is the world’s number-one wheat exporter – and largest producer after China and India – Ukraine is among the many high 5 wheat exporters worldwide.

“The wheat harvest begins in about two months and this 12 months’s yield is anticipated to be a wholesome one, which means ample provide for international markets in regular situations. However a protracted battle in Ukraine can have an effect on the harvest in that nation, and subsequently international provides,” Karabekir Akkoyunlu, a lecturer in politics of the Center East at SOAS, College of London, advised Al Jazeera.

As well as, the deliberate expulsion of some Russian banks from the worldwide SWIFT banking system in retaliation for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is anticipated to hit the nation’s exports.

“At a time of world meals disaster and provide chain disruptions because of the coronavirus pandemic, this can be a actual concern and it’s already pushing costs as much as report ranges,” he mentioned.

Rising costs, inadequate provide

Although Turkey domestically produces about half of the wheat it consumes, it has turn into more and more reliant on imports, 85 p.c of which come from Russia and Ukraine.

Ankara’s wheat imports from Ukraine reached report ranges in 2021, based on official knowledge from the Turkish Statistics Institute.

“The Turkish authorities says the nation has the manufacturing capability to make up for the loss in wheat imports, besides, this can push up the prices considerably,” Akkoyunlu mentioned.

“A protracted battle will make a tough 12 months worse for the common Turkish citizen, who’ve already seen their bread get lighter however costlier, and are having to pay report electrical energy payments.”

“Nearing an election 12 months, this can enhance the stress on the [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan authorities, which is dropping floor to the opposition in most opinion polls,” he mentioned.

In latest months, enormous queues of individuals ready to purchase subsidised bread have popped up in several districts of Istanbul, as cash-strapped residents commerce their time to save lots of a couple of lira on bread as hovering inflation and the battered Turkish forex have pushed up prices and dealt a extreme blow to buying energy.

Residents queue up to buy some breads at the Istanbul Municipality's subsidised bread shopResidents queue on the Istanbul Municipality’s subsidised bread store in Sultangazi [File: Yasin Akgul/AFP]

Rising costs and inadequate provide have already affected economically-depressed international locations within the Center East and North Africa that purchase the majority of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine, bringing them to the brink of disaster.

“Ukraine provides an enormous quantity of the grain to most of those international locations and loads of these locations are already on a knife’s edge. The least little factor that disturbs bread costs much more might actually kick off loads of turmoil,” Monica Marks, a professor of Center East politics at New York College Abu Dhabi, advised Al Jazeera.

“Not like Turkey, most economies within the Arab world are closely depending on wheat imports. Egypt is way out on the dependent finish of the spectrum. Egypt depends on Russia and Ukraine for 85 p.c of its wheat imports, Tunisia depends on Ukraine for between 50 and 60 p.c of its wheat imports,” she mentioned.

Marks mentioned that Tunisia is already “completely up in opposition to a wall economically … lots of people in Tunisia discuss in regards to the potential for a Lebanon situation, and they don’t seem to be loopy”.

She cited experiences that the Tunisian authorities has already been unable to pay for incoming wheat shipments, and mentioned there have been widespread shortages of grain merchandise comparable to pasta and couscous, which represent a good portion of the Tunisian food plan.

A worker carries fresh loaves of bread at a bakery in the El Menzah area of Tunis A employee carries contemporary loaves of bread at a bakery in El Menzah, Tunis [File: Fethi Belaid/AFP]

Akkoyunlu additionally famous that Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, along with Yemen and Sudan are at nice threat from a surge in costs and a spike in demand.

Whereas battle between Russia and Ukraine intensifies, a possible lower in wheat exports from their fertile lands can be felt in weak international locations all the way in which from the sting of North Africa to the Levant.

Marks mentioned that whereas Morocco just isn’t as depending on a few of its neighbours on wheat imports, it’s at present experiencing its worst drought in 30 years, leading to a surge in meals costs that may ultimately drive the federal government to lift grain imports and subsidies.

“There’s additionally loads of heavy dependency, even in international locations which are flush with hydrocarbon sources that we assume due to that may be in a greater place to climate the storm, like Algeria or Libya,” Marks mentioned.

Given bread’s function as a politically-charged commodity on this a part of the world, additional pressure on wheat provide and escalating costs might even spark revolt.

“Bread has been a key trigger and image of well-liked uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia going again to the Nineteen Seventies and 80s. The Egyptian revolution in 2011 was preceded by a serious drought in Eurasia and a corresponding rise in bread costs,” Akkoyunlu mentioned.

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