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.”
:: Image via kimi- on Flickr.
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