Russian military operations in Ukraine disrupted crucial grain supply from the two major exporting countries, forcing Egypt– the world’s top importer of wheat, to seek alternative sources.
Egypt’s General Authority for Supply Commodities, has issued an international tender to buy 55,000 to 60,000 tonnes of wheat on Monday.
Global grain markets are facing turmoil following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, with the two countries accounting for about 30 per cent of the world’s wheat supply. Russia is the world’s largest wheat exporter and Ukraine is among the top five.
Wheat prices shot to a record high of $387 per tonne in European trading on Thursday.
Egypt cancelled a tender last Thursday after receiving only one offer of French wheat, as at least two offers are required for a purchase to go ahead.
Abeer Etefa, MENA regional spokeswoman for the UN World Food Programme stated that:
“The Middle East and North Africa region is of particular concern and higher food prices will be a major casualty of a prolonged conflict in the area.”
“The conflict risks leaving buyers from Asia to Africa and the Middle East vulnerable to more expensive bread if supplies are disrupted. That would add to food commodity costs which are already the highest in a decade.”
The GASC cast a wider net in its latest tender, calling for offers from the U.S., Canada, France, Bulgaria, Australia, Poland, Germany, the UK, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Paraguay and Kazakhstan, in addition to Russia and Ukraine. The delivery would be scheduled for April.
Wheat is fundamental to the Egyptian diet, with about 70 per cent of the population relying on subsidised bread to feed their families.
With more than 100 million people, Egypt is expected to need about 13 million tonnes of wheat this year, said Lamy Hamed, associate professor in the soil and water department at Cairo University’s Faculty of Agriculture.
Although Egypt’s wheat reserves could last four months, according to Hamed, 50 per cent of Egypt’s wheat is imported from Russia and 30 per cent from Ukraine.
Libya, Morocco and Sudan are in similar dire straits as Sudan is left with only 3months worth of wheat reserves.
Food insecurity in wheat-dependent North and East Africa is exacerbated by climate change-induced drought.
In 2021, Egypt imported 11.6 million tonnes of wheat and produced 9.8 million tonnes, of which 3.4 million tonnes were procured by the government, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation.
Rising food prices in Egypt have already pushed up urban inflation, which increased from 5.9 per cent in December to 7.3 per cent in January, its highest rate since August 2019.
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