A hungry mob is an angry mob ...
So says Bob Marley in "Them belly full, but we hungry." While the popular uprising in Egypt is clearly being driven by widespread dissatisfaction with 30 years of the clan Mubarak, other aspects of the unrest are undeniably economic. Egypt endures high rates of unemployment and its young people are frustrated by limited opportunities. But food insecurity is also playing a part in the week’s drama.
The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization reports that food commodity prices have spiked to heights not seen since the 2008 price hikes that sparked riots around the world. FAO officials are worried that we could be entering a long period of higher prices. Commodity traders are reporting that some nations are attempting to deal with the problem by hoarding commodity supplies, leading to further price escalation and drawing commodity speculators in, exacerbating the scarcity and high prics they are attempting to protect themselves from.
None of these conditions bode well for Egypt, which imports nearly half its food and is perhaps the world’s largest wheat importer. Unemployment and food prices also contributed to the unrest in Tunisia, and protests against escalating food prices recently took place in Jordan and Algeria. Other nations will soon be facing their own tensions over food prices and restive populaces. People are certainly hungry for democracy and freedom in the Arab world, but it’s also true that people are just plain hungry.