Wheat crisis in Libya starts to surface as official reaction remains absent

Libya imports 43% of its wheat and barley needs from Ukraine, or about 650,000 tons annually, at a time when the country is suffering mainly from a shortage of grain stocks.

Like other countries whose strategic stock of grain is linked to Ukrainian imports, Libya is expected to be affected by the repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian war, which is expected to cast a shadow over many food supplies.

Amidst the circulating news of an increase in flour prices in bakeries by rates ranging from 10% to 15%, without knowing whether this rise was linked to new government pricing that was circulated, or that wholesalers are now controlling prices as a result of the news that has stopped import shipments from Ukraine.

The National Company for Mills and Feeds, which is responsible for importing grains, has not shown any official reaction or reassurances to citizens about the next stage and the extent to which the country and prices are affected by the lack of Ukrainian imports, and while several countries have begun to deal frankly and transparently with the upcoming possibilities, silence remains the dominant response of officials in Libya, whether by the company or the Ministry of Economy and Trade that is primarily concerned with the issue of food supplies.

Experts believe that the alternatives available to Libya are distributed among neighboring Egypt, which can provide an alternative in terms of providing wheat flour, in addition to the countries of South America, specifically Argentina and Brazil. However, this creates a new problem represented in the doubled shipping costs resulting from the long distance while the cost of exporting a ton of wheat from Ukraine to Libya is $33 per ton (it rose after the outbreak of the war to $45 per ton), the export prices of wheat from Argentina and Brazil range between $85 and $95 per ton – leading eventually to high prices of food items.

All signs lead to one conclusion: the increase in grain prices will happen by a large percentage and may be even higher if the Russian operation against Ukraine is prolonged. Studies indicate that Libya will be the most affected Arab country by the Ukrainian crisis after Lebanon in terms of grain imports, however, the official silence remains the most prominent position in light of the complete absence of the Ministry of Economy’s role in dealing with the current crisis.

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