Egypt needs long-term solutions to face impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war on food security: NGO

Ahram Online , Sunday 3 Apr 2022

A report on the repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine war on food security in Egypt by an Egyptian NGO says that the current solutions adopted by the government will help in the short run, but long-term solutions are also needed.


According to the new report titled “Repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian War on Food Security in Egypt” issued by the Research and Studies unit at the Cairo-based Forum for Development and Human Rights (FDHRD) on Sunday, the Russian invasion to Ukraine caused many economic impacts globally.

For Egypt, chief among these was the decision by both countries to stop the export of wheat and other grains, as well as the rise in energy prices.

The effect of these impacts was compounded by the fact that Egypt is in the midst of its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Egypt at the Global Food Security Index

The report highlights that according to the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) of the Economist Impact Center, Egypt scored 60.8/100 and ranked 62nd out of 113 countries, with its affordability (66.5 percent), food availability (60 percent), quality and safety ratio (60.7 percent) and natural resources and resilience (52 percent).

The index for the year 2021 revealed four strengths in Egypt's ranking: change in average food costs, food safety net programs, micronutrient availability and food safety. While weaknesses included: tariffs on agricultural imports, food standards and food diversity, the report added.

The report added that Egypt suffers from dwindling self-sufficiency, or the difference between production and consumption, of some agricultural products and crops, which forces the state to import from abroad to cover the deficit.

Egyptian food security is affected by dependence on outside sources, which exacerbates problems associated with food subsidies, including state spending deficits and the depletion of foreign exchange reserves, the FDHRD report read.

The report describes some of the internal and external challenges facing Egypt’s food security. Internal challenges include overpopulation, which has led to the destruction of agricultural land, and the high price of pesticides.

The Egyptian government has already identified the problem of the destruction of agricultural land as a major challenge and is addressing it.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) could also have a substantial impact on Egypt’s water use and subsequently its agricultural production.

“Given that agriculture consumes about 80 percent of Egypt's water resources, it will be the sector most affected by the reduced water supply, which is exacerbated by the filling of the dam in years of drought,” the report said.

Egypt has been vocal over the past decade about its concern that the GERD would reduce its share of the Nile’s water. Thus, Egypt, along with Sudan, has been demanding Ethiopia sign a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation policies of the dam, but the upstream country has yet to do so.

Oil prices are also impacting Egypt’s food security by raising the cost of food imports, and the cost of transporting it locally.

Global crises have also played an important external role in challenging Egypt’s food security, whether it is coronavirus or recently the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine War on Global Food Security

The impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February on global food security has its own section in the report.

“Egypt is considered as one of the most affected countries by the Russian-Ukrainian war as a result of the direct connection to its food security, depending on the import of food grains mainly from the two parties to the conflict,” the report said, adding that wheat imports represent about 62 percent of the total Egyptian wheat consumption.

“Egypt imports more than its domestic production average of wheat, which is a major food component, as it represents about 35 percent to 39 percent of the calories consumed by the citizen while it receives from abroad about 13 million tons of wheat annually, to be the largest importer of wheat in the world,” it added.

The report said that some countries had imposed export restrictions in response to higher prices like Moldova, Serbia and Hungary, while some countries have imposed export bans on certain grains. Indonesia, meanwhile, has tightened controls over the shipment of grain.

“These trends, along with disruptions to exports from Russia and Ukraine, are likely to add further pressures that will lead to higher prices in the future,” the report warned, adding that even under the most optimistic assumptions, global wheat prices will remain elevated throughout 2022 and are likely to continue into 2023.

Limits of Egyptian responses

The FDHRD mentioned several decisions taken by the Egyptian government to achieve food security, including banning the export of some food grains during the next three months, including beans, lentils, wheat, and flour of all kinds, as well as pasta of all kinds. The government is also stocking up on strategic commodities, increasing reserves of wheat, rice, oil, sugar and legumes from 3 to 12 months.

Nevertheless, the report says that those decisions are a short term solution and the Egyptian government needs to find more solutions on the long run.

“These measures can relieve some of the pressures placed on the Egyptian economy, but they will likely affect Egyptian trade relations in the long run, as well as Egypt needs to explore options to reduce the gap between domestic supply and demand,” the report said.

A  copy of the report titled “Repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian War on Food Security in Egypt” is available in English on the official website of FDHDR.

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