Russia-Ukraine war may lead to bread shortages in Arab countries

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused a rise in grain prices globally, and the rise affected wheat-producing countries, which raises fears of major repercussions on importing countries, especially Arab countries, some of which depend on Russian and Ukrainian wheat.

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine may lead to bread shortages in Arab countries, including war-torn Yemen, where millions are already on the brink of famine.

Ukraine exports 95 per cent of its grain through the Black Sea and more than 50 per cent of its wheat exports went to the Middle East and North Africa region in 2020, according to a report by the Washington-based Middle East Institute (MEI).

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The MENA region is highly dependent on wheat supplies from the two countries now at war, and any shortage of basic foodstuffs could cause unrest.

As per reports, it is estimated that Lebanon and Libya import about 40 per cent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine, Yemen about 20 per cent, and Egypt about 80 per cent.

Oman, UAE top Gulf countries to import wheat from Russia and Ukraine

Statistics issued by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that the UAE and the Sultanate of Oman are the top Gulf countries importing wheat from Russia and Ukraine, and they will be greatly affected by the repercussions of the Russian war against Ukraine.

According to Arabic daily Al Khaleej, statistics showed that the Sultanate of Oman is the most importer of wheat from Russia and Ukraine in the Gulf countries, with about 70 per cent of its needs, while the UAE ranks second in the Gulf region with 54 per cent of its needs.

The FAO data did not clarify the percentage of exports from the rest of the Arab Gulf countries, as it focused on the Arab countries that import the highest Russian and Ukrainian wheat.

The Russian military operations against Ukraine, which began on Thursday, February 24, are continuing, amid widespread international condemnation of Moscow.

What is the conflict between Russia and Ukraine?

Ukraine became an independent country with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was formerly part of the Russian Empire and later became the Soviet Republic and got rid of its Russian imperial heritage, thus establishing close relations with the West.

Since its independence, the country has been struggling with corruption and internal divisions. The western side of the country wants integration with the West while the eastern region is inclined towards Russia.

The conflict began when Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych rejected an association agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Moscow. The protesters overthrew him in what is known as the Dignity Revolution. In return, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean and supported a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

Soon after this, it attacked Donbas, the country’s industrial heartland. More than 14,000 people have been killed in the armed conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists.

Ukraine and the West accused Russia of deploying troops and sending weapons to the rebellions, an allegation that Russia denied. However, Russia strongly criticised the US and NATO for helping Ukraine with weapons and joint military drills. President Putin also expressed concerns over plans by some NATO members to establish military training centres in Ukraine as it will facilitate a military foothold in the region even without Ukraine joining NATO.

(With agency inputs)

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