In Sudan, shortage of wheat but farmers are struggling to sell their crops

In Sudan, shortage of wheat but farmers are struggling to sell their crops

In Sudan, there is a shortage of wheat and bread everywhere and yet sacks of seeds are piling up in Imad Abdallah’s little house: the government, which until now bought his harvest every year, has no more money.

During the sowing in March, the authorities had nevertheless promised him 75 dollars per bag of wheat, an incentive price set by the government to promote the cultivation of the precious cereal.

“It’s been more than two months since the wheat was harvested, we can no longer store it at home,” Imad said today, disappointed at his farm in al-Laota, in the province of Al-Jazeera, in the south of Khartoum.

Like thousands of other farmers, he discovered — but only after the harvest — that there were no more buyers for his grain.

The needs for wheat, the most consumed cereal in the country after sorghum, are nevertheless significant and amount to 2.2 million tonnes per year, imported mainly from Russia and Ukraine, according to the UN.

With falling imports and rising commodity prices as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the UN estimates that by September 18 million people, nearly half the population, could experience hunger.

Already last week, the NGO Save the Children announced the death linked to hunger of two children in North Darfur.

“An alarming sign of what could happen,” the NGO commented in a statement.

Despite this risk of a food crisis, Sudanese officials have recently declared that they are not buying all the crops produced in the country.

– Empty crates –

State coffers have been empty since the coup by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in October and the drop in international aid.

Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world, already had little foreign currency after decades of US sanctions. Today, “there is not enough money”, summarizes an official of the agricultural bank who buys the local wheat production each season.

“We have requested funds from the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank but we have not had a response,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

For an executive of the Ministry of Finance, who also remains anonymous, “the ministry refused because it would force it to print money, which could cause inflation to flare up”, already at 221% in April.

Last month, dozens of farmers in the north of the country demonstrated, fearing rotting of stored wheat.

“It can be stored in a silo for 12 to 18 months, provided the temperature and humidity are maintained there,” says Abdelkarim Omar, storage specialist. Without this, it is damaged in three months, eaten away by insects, he continues.

– Shortages –

According to the Central Bank, Sudan imported $366 million worth of wheat between January and March.

The Sudanese face frequent shortages of bread and the queues in front of the bakeries are getting longer, while at the same time bags of wheat are piling up, for lack of buyers, among the farmers.

An absurd situation denounced by the peasants who consider themselves aggrieved after having invested in the purchase of fertilizers, pesticides and other materials necessary for the cultivation of wheat.

Today in the province of Al-Jazeera many fallow plots while “farmers usually prepare their land for cultivation at this time of year”, regrets the agronomist Abdellatif Albouni.

In Sudan, the price of wheat is highly sensitive and the population reacts strongly to movements, such as at the end of 2018, when the Bashir government removed subsidies on this cereal.

At the announcement of the tripling of the price of this staple food, the crowd took to the streets of the city of Atbara – 300 kilometers from the capital – to express their anger. A protest that had spread throughout the country and had led to the fall of the dictator.

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