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World Bank: Food security concerns could exacerbate Middle East, Africa

Food security

Riyadh, (Business News Report)|| The World Bank has warned of increasing food security concerns in the Middle East and Africa due to the Russian-Ukrainian invasion.

 Carmen Reinhart, chief economist at the World Bank, said that rising energy and food prices would lead to growing social unrest in the Middle East and Africa.

On Friday, Germany will host an online meeting of the agriculture ministers of the Group of Seven major industrialized countries (G7) to discuss the repercussions of the invasion, amid growing food security concerns.

“There will be important ramifications for the Middle East, for Africa, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, in particular,” which had already been experiencing food insecurity, Reinhart told Reuters in an interview.

“I don’t want to be melodramatic, but it’s not a far stretch that food insecurity and riots were part of the story behind the Arab Spring,” she said, adding that successful and unsuccessful coups had increased over the past two years.

The Arab Spring protests began in 2010 in Tunisia, and then spread to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.

Sudden increases in food prices can lead to social unrest, as happened in 2007-2008 and again in 2011, when riots in more than 40 countries were linked to higher global food prices.

The World Bank said last month, days after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that agricultural commodity prices had already increased 35% year-on-year, and are expected to continue rising due to the war given that Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of wheat, corn, barley and sunflower oil.

The bank warned last month that the fallout could be particularly severe in the Middle East and North Africa, where countries such as Egypt import up to 80% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and Mozambique is also a large importer of wheat and oil.

Reinhart said Central Asian countries also face significant economic challenges due to their close economic and trade ties with Russia, which the International Monetary Fund expects will slip into recession this year due to Western sanctions.

Russia and Ukraine export about 30% of world wheat, while 18% of vegetable oil is exported by Ukraine.

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