The Russian invasion of Ukraine may cost Egypt $955 million in wheat import bills as wheat prices hit record highs.
Egypt imports roughly 70 per cent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine and fears are growing in Cairo that a protracted conflict will severely disrupt their supply.
Russia is the top exporter of wheat worldwide whilst Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat.
The cost of wheat has raised 37 per cent this year and maize 27 per cent as the Russia-Ukraine conflict exacerbates a ten-year high in global food prices brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, 70 per cent of Egypt’s population claim five loaves of subsidised bread a day but the government has warned that with supply chains disrupted they may cut access to subsidies for 45 million people.
The slashing of bread subsidies has been a major source of frustration from the Egyptian people towards the government, sparking widespread protests in 2017.
Roughly a third of Egyptians live below the poverty line and live on less than $2 a day. Unemployment is widespread and those that do have jobs complain that salaries have not been increased in line with inflation.
Just yesterday Egypt’s petrol minister Tarek El-Molla said that the rise in oil prices because of the Russian invasion is already negatively affecting Egypt as oil and gas have surged to their highest level since 2008.
Russia is the world’s third largest oil and liquid fuels producer and a major petroleum exporter.
Egypt has already raised fuel prices several times as part of an austerity programme it has rolled out to receive an IMF loan.
After 2019 protests calling for President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to stand down the government announced that it had lowered fuel prices but has since raised them again.
Al-Sisi has been ridiculed for calling on Egyptians to endure economic hardship in exchange for future prosperity when he and his ruling inner circle live in opulent palaces and have been accused widely of corruption.
As well as wheat and petrol, Egyptians fear that the conflict will affect their vital tourism industry as Russians and Ukrainians make up roughly 40 per cent of Egypt’s total tourists.
At the beginning of this month there was already a 50 per cent decline in Russian and Ukrainian tourists in the Red Sea holiday resorts.