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Russian invasion deprives Middle East and North Africa of wheat supplies

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Russian invasion deprives Middle East and North Africa of wheat supplies
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Dubai: Elio Alam is sad to forgo his favourite croissant or manouche. This Beirut resident never expected that the Russia invasion of Ukraine would hit the popular Lebanese street food.

Russia's crazy idea of crumbing Ukraine threw out of gear both nation's export operations, hitting largely on their wheat supplies to nations near and far, according to Arab News.

Arab states of the Middle East and North Africa top among both nation's wheat exporting list. The governments in Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Sudan, among others, are feeling the heat of each missile Russia launches to Ukraine.

Just days into the war, both nations had restricted their capacity to export wheat to traditional markets. "Ukraine has closed several of its ports and the movement of vessels in the Sea of Azov has been ordered to cease until further notice. The effect has been immediate," Arab News reported.

The countries described here, being some of the world's most food-insecure nations, would be worse off as conflict continues. Their food safety depends on how long before Russia and Ukraine would restore exporting daily essentials. Both nations are major players in computer chips, petroleum, wood, grains and sunflower oil.

But these former Soviet states account for more than 14 percent of global wheat exports. They produce a similar percentage of the world's corn market.

"Everyone is looking for other markets as it is becoming increasingly impossible to buy stocks from Ukraine or Russia," one of the Middle Eastern commodities' banker said, citing shipping disruptions, new economic sanctions, and rising insurance premiums. "The market is not expecting Ukrainian and Russian exports to resume until the fighting ends," according to the report.

Most of these wheat importing nations are at a dead-end, being unable to find cheaper alternative sources. One report said Lebanon is on the brink of its wheat stock running out in a month. Yemen is panicking, with no alternative for 90 per cent of wheat it imports. A large number of Yemenis are relying on food aid after years of drought brought near famine conditions.

Last year, Ukraine was the second-largest supplier of wheat to the UN's World Food Program, with much of the aid going to Syria, where nine out of 10 of the country's pre-war population are now on, or below, the poverty line, according to the UN.

According to Lebanese Minister of Economy and Trade Amin Salem, the nation imported about 60 per cent of wheat from Ukraine and Russia. The government, reports say, entered in talks with France, India and the US for sourcing wheat.

Lebanon's economy is in a parlous state, and the government is mulling over where to find supply sources and how to pay them. Egypt is fearing the threat to its economy if the war continues, with the price of wheat likely to spiral up--50 per cent up in the past few days. Egypt imports the most wheat in the world and is Russia's second-largest customer.

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