From Volume 38, Issue 8 of EIR Online, Published Feb. 25, 2011
Africa News Digest

Grain Price Hyperinflation Slams Egypt, North Africa

Feb. 14—(EIRNS)—Fully 18% of all wheat imports globally in recent years, has gone to the grain-import-dependent nations of Egypt, and North Africa—Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. This is the world's biggest single wheat-importing region. Last year, for example, this meant 21.4 million metric tons to Egypt/North Africa, out of 133 mmt. of wheat imported worldwide in 2009-10. Now, the people all across this region—over 165 million—are faced with impossible, out-of-control wheat prices, and the same for corn prices, and prices of other imported staples.

"Put a cap on the prices now," Lyndon LaRouche stressed today, as an urgent policy. Helga Zepp-LaRouche issued a similar call from Europe. There is no recourse in quick, local remedies. There is no "spare" water to hand, to put to use in expanding farmland. It is the world shift that counts, beginning with getting Obama out of the Presidency, and unhinging the U.S. from the empire.

A few parameters of the extreme food situation in the Maghreb, Egypt, and the region eastward, just underscore this point.

Alongside Egypt, where 82 million people live, there are another 83 million in the Maghreb, all dependent on grain imports, especially wheat. They are:

* Mauritania—3.4 million people; producing almost no wheat, importing 330,000 tons a year.

* Morocco—32 million people, producing 1.5-4 mmt. a year; importing 4.5 to 7 mmt. a year.

* Algeria—34.5 million people, producing 1.5 to 2.5 mmt. of wheat yearly, and importing 4.5 to 7 mmt.

* Tunisia—10.5 million people, producing 1-1.5 mmt., and importing 1.5 to 2 mmt.

* Libya—6.4 million people, produces no wheat at all. They import 500,000 tons of wheat flour, tons of macaroni and pastry; and about 1 mmt. of wheat.

The variation in imports depends on whether rainfall was good or bad in the right season. Annual wheat imports are in the range of 13 mmt. for these 83 million people. For 82 million people in Egypt, wheat imports are at the 9 mmt. level.

Now, none of this is guaranteed.

Add into this, the second-biggest wheat-importing region, the "Mideast," as the U.S. State Department calls it, which imports around 18-20 mmt. of wheat annually; and fully 30% of the world's wheat exported, goes to these two regions, North Africa/Egypt, and the Mideast—Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, U.A.E., and Oman.

Ethiopia Is Dangerously Close to Hunger Riots

Feb. 18 (EIRNS)—Ethiopia's governing EPRDF party's unopposed domination of the country's institutions does not guarantee that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will be immune to the dangerous social tensions that are building up over rising food prices in Ethiopia. The price of staples went through the roof in January, just at the time when the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt were breaking out.

Rising food prices helped push Ethiopia's annual inflation rate up to 17.7% in January, from 14.5% in December, and increasing for a second straight month, official data showed on Feb. 14. Food prices, which have the largest weight in Ethiopia's inflation measure, rose 13.6% from a year earlier, the Central Statistics Agency (CSA) said.

Zenawi has said that if traders failed to cut prices on essential goods in accordance with the price caps, then government outlets would start selling items at fixed prices.

Ethiopia, with its population of 83 million—a vast number of whom remain permanently undernourished—is a food-short nation. In 2008, when food prices soared around the world, and Ethiopia did not have enough foreign reserves to buy food from abroad, hunger riots broke out. In 2008, food riots took place in Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mauritania, Madagascar, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Mexico in the month of March.

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