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MENA faces a crisis as the world’s key wheat producers are at war

MENA faces a crisis as the world’s key wheat producers are at war

As two of the world’s most important wheat producers engage in a full-fledged conflict, the outlook for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) nations that rely on wheat from Ukraine and Russia is bleak for tomorrow.

In addition to being the world’s leading wheat exporter – and the third-largest producer behind China and India – Ukraine is also ranked among the top five wheat exporters globally.

“The wheat harvest begins in July, and the yield is predicted to be high this year, resulting in a plentiful supply for world markets under normal circumstances.” The crop in Ukraine, and consequently world supply, may be affected by a lengthy conflict in the nation, according to Karabekir Akkoyunlu, a professor in politics of the Middle East at SOAS, University of London, in a recent interview.

Additionally, the anticipated removal of several Russian banks from the international SWIFT financial system in retribution for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is predicted to have a negative impact on the country’s exports in the near future.

According to him, “At a time when the world is facing a food crisis and supply chain disruptions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, this is a serious issue, and it is already driving food prices to record highs.”

Rising prices, insufficient supply

Despite the fact that Turkey produces around half of the wheat it eats domestically, the country has grown more dependent on imports, with 85 percent of those imports coming from Russia and Ukraine.

According to official statistics from the Turkish Statistics Institute, Ankara’s wheat imports from Ukraine hit all-time high levels in the first quarter of 2020.

According to Akkoyunlu, “although the Turkish government claims that the nation has the production ability to compensate for the loss of wheat imports, this would still result in large cost increases.”

“A prolonged battle would exacerbate an already tough year for the typical Turkish citizen, who has already seen their bread become lighter but more costly while also being forced to pay record power bills.”

The administration of [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, who is losing ground to the opposition in most opinion surveys, would face further pressure as the election year approaches, he said.

Increased demand for subsidised bread has resulted in long lines of people forming in various districts of Istanbul in recent months, as cash-strapped citizens trade their time to save a few lira on bread as soaring inflation and a depreciating Turkish currency have driven up costs and dealt a severe blow to purchasing power.

The Egyptian minister also said that Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, as well as Yemen and Sudan, are all at danger from a jump in prices and an influx of demand for their products.

In addition, if the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalates, a possible decline in wheat exports from their rich lands would be felt in fragile nations stretching from the northernmost tip of Africa to the southernmost tip of the Levant.

Despite the fact that Morocco is not as reliant on wheat imports as some of its neighbors, Marks explained that the country is currently experiencing its worst drought in 30 years, which is causing a spike in food prices that will eventually force the government to increase grain imports as well as subsidies.

The author said that “there is also a great deal of heavy reliance, even in nations that are loaded with hydrocarbon resources, which we imagine would be in a better position to weather the storm, like Algeria or Libya.”

Increased pressure on wheat supplies and rising prices, combined with the fact that bread is a politically sensitive item in this region of the globe, might potentially provoke a popular uprising.

In Egypt and Tunisia, public uprisings began in the 1970s and 1980s, and bread has long been a crucial cause and symbol of those movements. In 2011, a big drought in Eurasia was followed by a comparable spike in bread prices, according to Akkoyunlu, who predicted the Egyptian revolution would take place.

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