Istanbul, Turkey – As two of the world’s key wheat producers face off in an all-out battle, tomorrow seems to be grim for the Center East and North Africa (MENA) nations 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 prime 5 wheat exporters worldwide.
“The wheat harvest begins in about two months and this yr’s yield is predicted to be a wholesome one, which means plentiful 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 predicted to hit the nation’s exports.
“At a time of world meals disaster and provide chain disruptions because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is 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 change 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, in accordance with official information 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 may push up the prices considerably,” Akkoyunlu mentioned.
“A protracted battle will make a troublesome yr worse for the common Turkish citizen, who’ve already seen their bread get lighter however dearer, and are having to pay report electrical energy payments.”
“Nearing an election yr, this may enhance the stress on the [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan authorities, which is dropping floor to the opposition in most opinion polls,” he mentioned.
In current months, enormous queues of individuals ready to purchase subsidised bread have popped up in numerous districts of Istanbul, as cash-strapped residents commerce their time to avoid wasting just a few lira on bread as hovering inflation and the battered Turkish foreign money have pushed up prices and dealt a extreme blow to buying energy.
Rising costs and inadequate provide have already affected economically-depressed nations 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 nations and a number of these locations are already on a knife’s edge. The least little factor that disturbs bread costs much more may actually kick off a number of turmoil,” Monica Marks, a professor of Center East politics at New York College Abu Dhabi, advised Al Jazeera.
“In contrast to Turkey, most economies within the Arab world are closely depending on wheat imports. Egypt is much 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 speak concerning the potential for a Lebanon state of affairs, and they aren’t loopy”.
She cited stories that the Tunisian authorities has already been unable to pay for incoming wheat shipments, and mentioned there have been widespread shortages of grain merchandise corresponding to pasta and couscous, which represent a good portion of the Tunisian weight loss plan.
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 will likely be felt in susceptible nations all the best way from the sting of North Africa to the Levant.
Marks mentioned that whereas Morocco is just not 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 can finally pressure the federal government to boost grain imports and subsidies.
“There’s additionally a number of heavy dependency, even in nations which can be flush with hydrocarbon assets that we assume due to that will be in a greater place to climate the storm, like Algeria or Libya,” Marks mentioned.
Given bread’s position as a politically-charged commodity on this a part of the world, additional pressure on wheat provide and escalating costs may even spark revolt.
“Bread has been a key trigger and image of common uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia going again to the Seventies and 80s. The Egyptian revolution in 2011 was preceded by a significant drought in Eurasia and a corresponding rise in bread costs,” Akkoyunlu mentioned.