Sudan Struggles with Growing Food Costs

By: Justin Chan

As Sudan struggles to contain its high rate of unemployment, the country's food costs have risen. Reuters Africa reported that Sudan's inflation increased to 19.3 percent last month due to soaring food prices. In an attempt to limit black market practices, the government had devalued the Sudanese pound two years ago. Since then, inflation has more than doubled and has been worsened by the incremental increases in food costs. Food prices rose by 4.1 percent in January.

Sudan has been economically impaired since South Sudan seceded last year. The two countries used to split oil revenues, but the secession led to a loss of close to 75 percent of  Sudan's 500,000 barrels of oil production per day. There had already been concerns over whether Sudan would be able to handle a food shortage due to the fighting that ultimately led to South Sudan's independence.

Sudan is one of several Arab countries that is currently facing extreme poverty, according to the Voice of America. The lack of food security, combined with insufficient access to water, suggests that the official numbers that determine the poverty rates belie the severity of the situation.

"In general, we know way too little about the food security and poverty in the Arab world and that has several reasons. And one of the major reasons is that the access and availability to data is really limited," said Clemens Breisinger, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

In light of the global recession, increases in food costs have hit Arab countries, such as Sudan, especially hard. Breisinger noted that the Arab world is the most dependent on food imports and imports more than 50 percent of its food consumption. A high population growth rate in the area, he said, has led to a high consumer demand.

"Given the supply constraints - more demand no matter what - they will further drift apart. So the food gap will increase, which obviously increases the vulnerability of that region to global food price shocks - the ones that we saw in 2008 and to some extent in 2010," he said.

Photo: NewsHour 

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