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Africa

Wheat shortage on the minds of voters in Sudanese elections, analysts say

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Analysts say the Sudanese government is developing a plan to domesticate the production of wheat inside the country Reuters

As Sudanese vote, or don’t, in the elections that were extended by one day on Wednesday, one thing is evident: from Khartoum to Darfur, and from Port Sudan to Blue Nile, there is a lack of wheat and a lack of bread. Voter apathy and perhaps no bread has kept voters at home.

Abdalbasit Saeed, an independent political analyst in Khartoum, says that the shortage, as well as a shortage of gasoline, really hit people the hardest.

“The transformative industries like grinding mills, flour mills and mass production of wheat flour, these require higher energy   petroleum, which is in short demand in the country,” he said via telephone.

“Making bread itself requires sources of energy like gasoline, which is also in short supply in the country. These are the factors and why people in the production areas are not producing larger quantities," Saeed said. "When the government goes to import wheat, there are very high prices for it because the government revenue has lost 80 per cent of its quantity to South Sudan where petroleum was the source of its revenue.”

But Ali Musa, the deputy director of the Socio-Economic and Policy Analysis Research Center, part of Sudan’s Agricultural Research Corporation, believes that there are other issues such as how Sudanese have moved within the country and have changed their eating patterns.

“In the past, most of the Sudanese are staying in the rural areas. But due to many things, like climate change, and Blue Nile and Darfur [conflicts], many people have been displaced to big cities like Khartoum," he said.

Meanwhile, consumption has changed, he says.

“The people in the rural areas used to eat sorghum, millet and other cereals. When they came to the city, they found that these things were very costly," Musa explained. "It is better for them to use bread rather than ordinary foods.”

Musa says that the Sudanese government has developed a plan to domesticate the production of wheat inside the country.

“They have a good budget for the development of wheat projects. There are many locations where they have started testing and also their production has started this year. They did this in the River Nile state and the Northern state,” he adds.

The exact origins of the wheat shortage and other shortages are very complex, and Saeed says it involves the government attacking the very people who are trying to grow wheat in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. He says the government is depriving the farmers there of a living and of food, and in effect, cutting off a viable source of wheat for the rest of the country.

“Now, the government is making high season for attacks for war activities. And so the people cannot go to the farms because the farms are not safe. So where can they find cereal to eat?” says Saeed.

“This is the issue, why the international community is asking the UN Security Council to come forward and allow safe corridors to the war zone in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, so that people can get food.”

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