It is no news that the world is currently in a food crisis. Yes, food has become much more expensive and scarce than it used to be just last year.

In its recent Nigeria Development Update (NDU), the World Bank estimated that the inflation shock will push eight million people into poverty between 2020 and 2021—this is bound to worsen as food prices increase further. For example, wheat has doubled in price this year alone. The price changes badly affect countries in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region like Egypt. Egypt is the largest wheat importer globally, and most of the imported wheat goes to the government's subsidised bread program. 


Key takeaways:

  • The world is going through the worst food crisis in almost 15 years, driven mainly by the Russia-Ukraine war. However, for many countries, the crisis began with supply chain strains and extreme weather conditions in 2020. 

  • On the one hand, many countries have responded to the crisis by imposing protectionist policies to increase local production. On the other hand, many have resorted to increasing supply by sourcing food from smaller producers and engaging in barter-like trade. 

  • Short-term solutions to the crisis include supply-inducing policies and welfare programs for individuals and farmers. Long-term solutions, however, include making food systems more resilient by improving the storage and transportation of food in emerging countries. 

For Egypt, bread is life. In fact, bread is called "aish" or "eish" in Egypt, which means life/living. So, when wheat prices rise, the entire country feels the impact. The rise in wheat prices in 2008-2009 was partly responsible for the Egyptian uprising (Arab Spring) in 2011. The cost of bread had increased by over 30%, and the government suspended its subsidised bread program. This, coupled with the rising unemployment in the country, led to severe dissatisfaction with the government. The country might be facing a similar hike in food prices caused by the Russia-Ukraine war. 

At the moment, the government's wheat import bill might increase to $5.7billion, from an annual rate of $3 billion—which makes the bread subsidy more expensive than usual. This is one of the grim impacts of the