Egypt has fixed the price of unsubsidised bread amid a global surge in wheat prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The move comes after war shut off access to cheaper wheat from the Black Sea region, particularly affecting exports to the Middle East and north African region. Egypt is the world’s biggest wheat importer, bringing in about 60% of its grain from overseas. Russia and Ukraine accounted for 80% of the country’s imports last year.
The Egyptian prime minister, Mostafa Madbouly, set the price of commercially sold bread at 11.50 Egyptian pounds a kilo on Monday, which is 49 British pence. The new fixed price for flat, round balady bread weighing 90g has been set at 1.00 Egyptian pounds.
Concern about supplies of wheat had already pushed up the price of bread, which is a food staple in Egypt, by as much as a quarter is some bakeries, to 1.25 Egyptian pounds a loaf, while flour prices were up about 15%, Attia Hamad from the Cairo chamber of commerce told Reuters.
Steep rises in food prices have previously caused political unrest in Egypt and other countries including Bangladesh and Indonesia. In 2007 and 2008, shortages caused by droughts in key wheat and rice-producing countries and a surge in energy costs led to riots in more than 40 nations around the world.
Last week, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned there was a danger of severe hunger, as the war in Ukraine threatened supplies of key staple crops.
Ukraine alone supplied 12% of global wheat before the war, and was the biggest producer of sunflower oil. About two-thirds of the country’s wheat exports had been delivered before the invasion, but the rest is now blocked. There are fears that farmers will be unable to continue with spring planting, or take in grain harvests in the summer, if the fighting continues.
Wheat prices hit record highs last week, although they have since fallen back slightly.
Alongside the concerns about wheat production and exports from Russia and Ukraine, the price of basic foodstuffs such as sunflower oil has also soared, while the price of urea, a key nitrogen fertiliser, has more than tripled in the past year, because of the rising cost of energy, a key input.