War in Ukraine is sending shockwaves in a global food market already hit hard by failed harvests, climate change and speculation. But hunger is also leading to revolt.
Russia and Ukraine account for around 30 percent of the world’s wheat exports. But sanctions on Russia and blockades of Ukrainian ports have cut off the distribution of wheat.
Speculators are driving prices higher. Seeing shortages they hoard and restrict food for profit. Many of the countries that rely on the region for wheat and other grains have already been torn apart by war, imperialism and climate change. Somalia in east Africa depends on Russia and Ukraine for 100 percent of its wheat exports, and Yemen imports over 60 percent.
Recently United Nations officials said 19 million people in Yemen are projected to be in need of food assistance. Of these, 7.3 million people face emergency levels of hunger and 161,000 actual starvation. This is the legacy of the Western-driven war headed by Saudi Arabia and using British armaments. About 75 percent of Sudan’s wheat comes from Ukraine and Russia. Now, with prices rising on a wide range of commodities, protesters are taking to the streets.
Thousands took part in big demonstrations on Thursday of last week. They raged against the rising price of essentials, especially fuel. They drew on the anger and continued democracy demands after a military coup in October last year. The grassroots Resistance Committees, which have been central to the fightback against the generals’ regime, called for barricades to block the streets. Security forces killed one protester and injured others in Wad Madani city and the capital Khartoum.
According to the UN, the number of extremely hungry people in Sudan could double by September. The price of bread has risen from 30 Sudanese pounds to 50 in just a matter of months. Farmer and father of six, Hussien Khair el-Said, told the Guardian newspaper, “People are really struggling here.”
Shortages of food and fuel also led to large protests in Sri Lanka last week. The cost of items such as milk powder and chicken has risen tenfold. Protester Sanjeeva Perera said, “There is a massive economic crisis. The people don’t have food, fuel, and even if we have money, we can’t buy what we want. The rulers don’t care that people are suffering.” Prasad Colombage, another protester, added, “People just eat one meal a day.”
Protests against food prices rising are terrifying to those in power. A new United Nations report on the impact of the war in Ukraine warned that “The risk of civil unrest, food shortages and inflation-induced recessions cannot be discounted.” Riots, strikes and revolutions would be a welcome response to war and hunger.
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