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How Food Prices Can Fuel Revolutions Like Egypt's

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Globalization page. For the latest news on the Egyptian revolution, please visit Democracy Now!

This is not Egypt's first time at the revolution rodeo, and previous outbursts were precipitated by the cost of bread. Global food prices are spiking right now, and Egypt, as the world's largest wheat importer, is reliant on climate-tossed countries like Russia and Pakistan for its food supply. Do commodities prices play a role in the current protests?

Food insecurity means political insecurity: NPR reported yesterday on the role of food prices in the recent turmoil:

Political unrest has broken out in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and other Arab countries. Social media and governmental policies are getting most of the credit for spurring the turmoil, but there's another factor at play.

Many of the people protesting are also angry about dramatic price hikes for basic foodstuffs, such as rice, cereals, cooking oil and sugar.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says its global food price index is at a record high, above even where it stood during the last food crisis three years ago. In early 2008, rising prices caused riots in dozens of countries -- several of which are now seeing uprisings once again.

Not the major factor in Egypt: David Pollock at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told us he doubts that commodity pricing is a major factor -- in fact, he called it a "huge oversimplification." There are grave inequalities in the Egyptian economy, but it's the inequalities, not the absolute cost, that people object to. 

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