Rising Food Prices Behind Riots in Algeria and Tunisia

tunisia-food-prices-riot-protestThe recent riots that have rocked North Africa are not just about unemployment and political corruption but also the rising cost of basic food

As violence spirals out of control in Tunisia and the death toll continues to rise, it’s clear that the concerns that are bringing people to the street are ones of basic need. It’s not just about political corruption which seems to riddle various Arab governments- it about the the increasing difficulty people face trying to put food on the table.

Violent clashes in Tunisia between protesters and security forces broke out over the weekend and have killed a reported 21 people so far. The protesters say they are unhappy with rising food and fuel prices, unemployment and corruption as well as the excessive violence they have faced during the unrest. A curfew has been enforced in Tunis in Tunisia to help quell the riots but as climate change disrupts food supplies, will the region see more food riots?

The recent protests in Tunisia follow hot on the heels of unrest in the region since mid-December 2010 over rising food prices and youth unemployment. In Algeria, protests also broke out this month over price hikes in sugar, milk and flour and resulted in the death of 5 people. Al Jazeera reported that youths were heard chanting ‘bring us sugar’ and demonstrators broke into warehouses to steal sacks of flour in protest against food prices, which had risen between 20 and 30 percent in the first week of January. In a bid to calm the protesters, the Algerian government imposed urgent cuts on import duties and taxes to help bring down food costs and states that it has now “turned the page” on the nationwide food riots.

Is Global Warming Causing The Hike In Food Prices?

There is no denying that the common thread between Tunisia and Algeria is the fact that they have both recently seen dramatic price hikes. Experts such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FOA) warned that a global food crisis, on the scale of the food crisis of 2007-8 which saw huge rises in the price of food, was on the way. In fact, a recent report by FOA found that the global average price of food were at their highest since 2008, when sky rocketing food prices toppled at least one government and pushed more than one billion people into hunger.

Clearly, high food prices can affect the stability of governments and the price of food is closely linked to climate change. Recent droughts, heatwaves and floods have disrupted food supplies due to poor harvests and limited supplies mean that the price of basic food goes up. As Gwynne Dyer writing for Arab News states: “The rule of thumb is that we lose about 10 percent of world food production for every rise of one degree C in average global temperature. So the shortages will grow and the price of food will rise inexorably over the years. The riots will return again and again.”

:: Arab News, Al Jazeera and BBC

:: Image via kimi- on Flickr.

For more on food shortages see:

Jordan Tries To ‘Ketchup’ After Heat and Pests Wilt Tomatoes

UAE Plans To Improve Food Security

Egypt To Grab Sudanese Land To Meet Its Wheat Needs

About Arwa Aburawa

Arwa is a Muslim freelance writer who is interested in everything climate change related and how Islam can inspire more people to care for their planet and take active steps to save it while we can.She is endlessly suspicious of all politicians and their ceaseless meetings, especially as they make normal people believe that they are not part of the solution when they are the ONLY solution.Her Indian auntie is her model eco-warrier, and when Arwa is not busy helping out in the neighborhood alleyway garden, swap shopping or attempting fusion vegetarian dishes- with mixed success, she’d like to add- she can be found sipping on foraged nettle tea. You can find all of Arwa’s published work on her freelance site, and check out her musing on her blog.You can contact her @arwa_journalist or via arwa (at) greenprophet.com

2 thoughts on “Rising Food Prices Behind Riots in Algeria and Tunisia”

  1. Tinamarie says:

    Hmm, I don’t know about what Fritz wrote, but it’s easy to blame the US for the world’s ails.

    Anyhoo, there are many reasons for these problems, and I commend you for pointing out a few important ones without pointing fingers. As we all know, when you point one at someone else, three more are pointing right back …

  2. It is the US dollar policy that drives up food prices around the world. Printing more dollars causes the price of oil and everything transported using oil to rise for those that work for the dollar.

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