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Tunisia Grapples with Severe Grain Shortage as Egypt Advocates for Gaza Ceasefire

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Hadeel Hashem
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Tunisia Grapples with Severe Grain Shortage as Egypt Advocates for Gaza Ceasefire

In a wave of events that have caught international attention, Tunisia is grappling with a severe grain shortage crisis, leading to long bread queues at bakeries across the capital and other cities. A drastic 60% decrease in grain production, resulting from a harsh drought, has deeply impacted the availability of flour and semolina – key elements in the production of bread. The crisis has also affected street vendors who sell affordable sandwiches in populous areas, an essential aspect of the local food culture.

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Roots of the Crisis

Alert, an organization dedicated to combating rent-seeking economies, attributes the crisis to major disruptions in grain imports, specifically soft wheat used for flour. Despite consistent shipments of grains from Russia and other countries arriving at Tunisian ports, bakeries and food traders express frustration over delays in unloading these shipments. In an attempt to mitigate the soft wheat shortage, authorities have resorted to supplying subsidized bakeries with hard wheat, typically used for semolina. However, this strategic move is not viewed as a sustainable solution and may further escalate the crisis. Hard wheat is approximately $100 more expensive per ton than soft wheat, significantly increasing the government's subsidy costs and depleting the semolina supply in the market.

Financial Ramifications and Government Response

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The grain crisis intertwines with Tunisia's precarious fiscal situation, presently enduring a liquidity crunch. Despite the economic challenges, securing bread production remains a high-priority agenda for the government, given the vital role of this staple food. It is noteworthy that bread was a catalyst for significant public protests in the country in 1984. To ensure a steady grain supply from global markets, the government secured an $87 million loan from the African Development Bank last September.

International Developments

Meanwhile, Egypt has intensified its international efforts to institute a ceasefire in Gaza and vehemently condemns the forced displacement of Palestinians. The nation has also voiced its opposition against the continuous Israeli bombing of civilian facilities in Gaza, the suffocating siege, and systematic starvation of civilians in the enclave. Egypt has demonstrated its commitment to easing the situation by facilitating the entry of fuel and relief supplies into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.

The nation continues to advocate for a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through a two-state solution, in line with UN resolutions. Egypt's efforts to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories, protect unarmed Palestinian civilians, and demand an immediate cessation of military operations were the focal points of recent talks with Croatia in Cairo. The country also participated in a virtual conference on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, reinforcing its condemnation of Israeli practices and emphasizing the need for coordinated international efforts to achieve a sustainable ceasefire.

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