Fluctuating wheat prices hit the poorest population worst. Bread provides one third of the caloric intake in Egypt and around 40 % of household income is spent on food.Egypt is currently facing a variety of economic, social and political crises, but there could be even bigger challenges in store just around the corner. With 95% of the country uninhabited and covered by unfertile desert, any threats posed to its few fresh water resources in turn represents a threat to all human activities. However, with most eyes at present on Egypt’s political situation, few are giving environmental problems much attention, seeing them as something to tackle after the political situation has stabilised, and thus failing to see the crucial link between environmental and political stability.
The agricultural sector in Egypt constitutes only 14 % of its GDP, but for food security agricultural land is of vital importance. Previously Egypt used to be a wheat exporter, but due to its rapid population growth it has now become the world’s largest wheat importer, producing only 60% of the wheat it consumes. More than half of the imported wheat comes from Russia, but during years of bad harvest, such as 2010, Russia sold 40% less wheat than normal to Egypt, causing unexpectedly high prices. Such fluctuating food prices are often followed by food riots and social unrest, as has been analysed by a group of researchers in a paper called ‘The Food Crises and Political Instability in North Africa and the Middle East’.
by Inga Härmälä
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