Tunisia instructs officials not to discuss looming wheat crisis, sparked by Russian invasion of breadbasket Ukraine

Tunisia instructs officials not to discuss looming wheat crisis, sparked by Russian invasion of breadbasket Ukraine
2 min read
03 March, 2022
The Tunisian government is reportedly asking officials to not address the media regarding an impending wheat crisis, set to worsen after Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Tunisia, already enduring a dire economic situation, may have to brace itself for a wheat shortage [Getty]

The Tunisian government has reportedly prohibited public officials from commenting on concerns about a wheat import crisis seriously exacerbated by Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine together are the source of 80 percent of Tunisia’s wheat reserves, essential for bread and other staples.

Around 984,000 tons of wheat are imported annually from Ukraine to Tunisia and 111,000 tons from Russia.

The government has instructed officials not to give public statements or speak to the media on the issue of supply chain issues due to it being a "national security issue" which would "alarm citizens".

Tunisia is now ruled by an effective autocrat after suspending parliament, clamping down on the judiciary's powers, and sacked the government since last year's power grab.

The ministry of agriculture previously issued a statement on 25 February saying that it was able to secure enough durum wheat and barley to last until May 2022, and soft wheat until June 2022.

The ministry said that Tunisia's wheat reserves should not be affected by Russia's military aggression on Ukraine during this period.

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The Russia-Ukraine crisis is likely to result in an increase in fuel, wheat and raw material prices for Tunisia, which imports much of its goods, adding pressure to its stagnating economy.

Mohamed Rajaibia, member of the Executive Office of the Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fisheries confirmed that "the war in Ukraine will be reflected in Tunisia," in a previous statement to Arabi 21.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also exacerbated Tunisia's already ailing economy, with debt soaring to over 90 percent of GDP, and the unemployment rate rising from 15.1 to 18.4 percent.

Tunisia's economic downturn resulted in it turning to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help.

Several MENA countries, including Egypt and Lebanon who rely heavily on Russian and Ukrainian wheat imports, are faced with looming concerns over its wheat supplies as Moscow continues its aggression on Kyiv.

Syria also faces a similar problem, with the country already on the brink of starvation.