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Liberia and West Africa: a New Food Emergency

With living prices rising globally, the most unstable and poorest regions suffer the most. Rice is the staple food in many West African countries, but the price has increased, and the markets are starting to run out. Moreover, the Ukrainian crisis, the floods in Pakistan, and the protectionism of the Indian market have reduced the supply capacities of African states.


Specifically, rice prices have more than doubled in the past few months. FrontPageAfrica reports that 25kg of rice in the Gambia is sold for US$25, while 50kg is sold for US$45. In Nigeria, 25kg of local rice is US$40, while 25kg of imported rice is US$55. In Côte d'Ivoire, the situation is similar, with 25kg being sold for US$30.00 and 50kg US$50.00; Lastly, in Guinea, 25kg is valued at US$35.00 while 50kg at US$55.00. 


These increases affect the international market and local smallholders. Globally, increased prices also make it more difficult to access transportation for import and export products. 


Liberia, a small West African state of 5 million inhabitants - 27.6% living below the international poverty line, i.e., USD 2.15 a day - has been particularly hit due to delivery delays. As a result, the price of a 25kg bag of rice has increased from US$13.50 to US$20 to US$22 and US$25 in Monrovia and other parts of the country. The result is that the retail price of a cup of rice sold for $35 (Liberian Dollars) is now between LD$60 to LD$80.


The queues in front of rice wholesalers have multiplied. As a result, people spend endless hours and often go home without even a grain of rice, so they are forced to return the next day, hoping to be luckier. It is an undoubtedly unsustainable situation that risks triggering social tensions in already fragile states that now experience the international economic crisis affecting them the worst. 


Many locals testify that these circumstances are already causing riots and widespread disappointment with the institution. Some claim that the violence they see is similar to what happened before the civil war started in the 1980s.


The rice supply crisis affects sub-Saharan Africa and has worsened significantly after the floods in Pakistan and India's decision to limit its exports. New Delhi banned exports of broken rice (broken grain fragments) and imposed a 20% duty on exports of higher-quality rice.


With this measure, the world's largest exporter seeks to lower prices locally after monsoon rains have been below average. Thanks to this measure, exports could drop by 25% in the coming months. All cereals have risen, and rice has joined this trend, explained Himanshu Agarwal, director of Satyam Balajee - India's leading rice exporter.


At the same time, Thailand and Vietnam have decided to raise prices to remunerate their farmers better. As a result, according to Phin Zinell, a food economist at the National Australia Bank, there will be "significant strains on food security in many countries." And Africa will be part of this trend, especially since the face of the floods that hit Pakistan could weigh significantly on global prices.

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Tags: #crisis #Africa #food #rice #Liberia


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