“If we don’t feed the people, we feed the conflict”warns the insurer Allianz Trade in a study estimating that eleven countries, especially in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, present a high risk of social tensions due to soaring food prices.
“The global food price shock is of particular concern to countries that are net importers of food or certain foods that have become scarce due to the war in Ukraine, such as grains”writes the insurer in a study published on Tuesday, June 14.
This food shock reduces access to resources “and could even lead to the fall of certain governments like during the Arab springs”, analyzes the insurer. A reference to the popular protest movements at the turn of the 2010s, fed by the worsening of poverty and at the origin of the fall of several regimes such as in Tunisia or Egypt.
Importing countries, first concerned
At the time, food prices had increased by 50%, recalls Allianz Trade. However, the price of wheat is now higher today than its 2012 level. In addition, the Ukrainian crisis is affecting food availability since the country has until now exported 15% of the world’s wheat. Along with restrictions on Russian fertilizer and gas exports, rising energy prices would also make it more expensive to produce fertilizers and operate agricultural equipment. Not to mention the lingering effects of the health crisis, which has also contributed to disrupting supply chains around the world.
The insurer estimates that eleven States are particularly at risk of seeing the emergence of social conflicts in the coming years, in particular because of their dependence on imports. The list includes Algeria, Tunisia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey and Sri Lanka. The latter country is already going through the worst economic crisis since its independence.
So far, only Bosnia and Herzegovina and Egypt have started to adopt measures aimed at preserving purchasing power, battered by rising inflation and the consequences of the pandemic.
Concerns from sub-Saharan Africa
Other net food importing countries present, according to the insurer, a risk of social conflicts, but less high. These include Romania, Bahrain or Kazakhstan. Saudi Arabia and China are also in this category, but the risks of conflict are still a little lower there, their financial situation proving to be more solid.
The International Monetary Fund had already alerted at the end of April on “risks of social unrest” in sub-Saharan Africa due to soaring food prices. The director of the Africa department, Abebe Aemro Sélassié, confided then to be ” worried “ facing the situation.
More or less violent protest movements erupted in 2008 in some thirty countries, notably in Senegal and Cameroon, as well as in the Maghreb and the Caribbean due to a sharp increase in the prices of basic foodstuffs. Sub-Saharan Africa imports 85% of its wheat consumption, with particularly high needs in Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Mozambique, the Fund noted in late April.