Food Price Rises Contribute to Popular Uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen

The background impact of food price rises and high levels of food insecurity in general can't be overlooked.

While years of political dictatorship and repression are no doubt the top line cause of the popular uprisings in Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt, the background impact of food price rises and high level of food insecurity in general can't be overlooked. In Egypt specifically, many Egyptians spend about 40% of their monthly income on food--compared to about 17% in Brazil and 20% in China and Saudi Arabia.

We've covered the impact of climate change and extreme weather on food prices a number of times, but Climate Progress and Al Jazeera both have good commentary on how this feeds into the ongoing uprisings:

From Climate Progress:

That high food prices are historically a major driver of political unrest is pretty much an uncontroversial historical fact.  Indeed, there is actually recent research on this very subject: "Economists at the University of Adelaide, for instance, recently examined the impact that food prices have on civil conflict in 120 countries in the past 40 years. "Our main finding is that in low-income countries increases in the international food prices lead to a significant deterioration of democratic institutions and a significant increase in the incidence of anti-government demonstrations, riots, and civil conflict," the researchers note. The same finding does not hold true in high-income countries, where citizens can better afford food."

40% of Egyptians Live on $2 a Day - Food Price Rises Really Hurt

And Danny Schecter, writing in Al Jazeera, quotes NYU economist Nouriel Roubini:

What has happened in Tunisia is happening right now in Egypt, but also riots in Morocco, Algeria and Pakistan are related not only to high unemployment rates and to income and wealth inequality, but also to this very sharp rise in food and commodity prices. [Which in Egypt have increased 17% and 40% of the population lives on $2 a day.]


Matthew McDermott writes about alternative energy for TreeHugger.
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