India is in final talks to start exporting wheat to Egypt, reports the Economic Times, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has disrupted the wheat supply from the leading exporters.
Whilst Russia is the largest exporter of wheat worldwide, Egypt is the largest importer. Before the war Egypt imported roughly 80 per cent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine and now must look to alternative sources.
India produces roughly 108 million tonnes of wheat a year, with most of it going towards domestic consumption. India’s wheat exports have risen to $1.74 billion compared with $340.17 million the previous year.
India is also in talks to export wheat to China, Turkey and Iran.
On 9 March Ukraine prohibited food exports as part of an effort to prevent a humanitarian crisis. The invasion has destroyed both infrastructure and the conflict, whilst farmers themselves are no longer able to harvest the crop as they are escaping the fighting.
At the beginning of this month it was predicted that the crisis would cost Cairo $955 million in wheat import bills.
In 2018 the UN reported that almost 32 million people in Egypt lived below the poverty line as relentless austerity measures are rolled out.
In 2016 the government floated the currency, imposed a value-added tax and slashed subsidies including on fuel.
Egyptians rely on subsidised products, including 70 million on subsidised bread.
Last Friday Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly issued a seven per cent hike for cooking gas, the second in three months.
Food prices were already at a ten-year high as part of the fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic.
The price of bread in Egypt surged by 50 per cent just one week into the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Today, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on governments to make sure the conflict in Ukraine does not make the food crisis in the Middle East and North Africa worse than it already is.
Disruptions to the supply of agricultural products from Ukraine and Russia are “already exacerbating already-rising food prices and deepening poverty,” the rights watchdog said.
The Centre for Global Development said last week that the massive spike in food and energy prices will push over 40 million people into extreme poverty.