Moroccan Bread Riots

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Khawaga
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Sep 27 2007 11:10
Moroccan Bread Riots

The price of wheat has gone up a lot lately. It's causing resentment and small localized protests outside bakeries here in Egypt, especially since it's Ramadan. I am wondering if we will see a new wave of food riots engulfing the developing world like it did in the 70s and 80s. In fact, the only time the Egyptian government was nearly overthrown was in the famous Food Riot in 1977 when rioters forced Sadat to flee Cairo and order was not restored until the Egyptian army was deployed on the streets.

Over the last year or two I've read lots of similar stories taking place in the Middle East like the one below.

Quote:
CASABLANCA, Morocco — Violent protests over the cost of bread prompted the Moroccan government to annul a 30 percent price hike linked to soaring global grain costs.

Protesters clashed with police, cars were torched and buildings damaged in the demonstrations Sunday in Sefrou, 120 miles east of the capital Rabat. Some 300 people suffered injuries, Moroccan newspapers reported Tuesday. The state news agency said more than 30 people were arrested.

The government held an emergency meeting Monday, and Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa ordered the price hike canceled, the Interior Ministry said.

Amid rising world prices for wheat, the government authorized a bread price rise of 30 percent on Sept. 10, soon before the start of Ramadan. Moroccan consumption of breads and pastries rises sharply during the Muslim holy month, as families hold large feasts after sundown to break the all-day fast.

The decision prompted widespread complaints from consumers that peaked at Sunday's protest, organized by the local branch of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.

The protest degenerated into violence that left schools, stores and administrative buildings damaged and several cars burned, the provincial governor, Mohamed Allouche, said.

The Moroccan Association for Human Rights, a well-established group operating since 1979 with branches around the country, has organized several sit-ins against food price rises over the past year.

The weekend protests raised the specter of bread riots in 1981 that left hundreds dead in Casablanca. Those riots were prompted by the government's decision to raise bread prices by 30 percent.

This year, wheat prices have soared worldwide amid rising demand and shrinking stocks. One reason is increasing demand for biofuels, which can be made from wheat. European consumers have seen prices rise sharply for breads, pasta and meat products as a result of rising grain costs.

Link.

ernie
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Sep 27 2007 12:16

Khawaga, thanks for posting this interesting article. The rise in the price of flour is world wide at present partly due to the demand for land for biofuel (a clear indication that capitalism has no answer to the question of global warming, or at least that its attempts to try and do something about it it can only make things worse). If I remember rightly there have been large protests in Mexico about the price rises in Tortillas, and I think there have been others in the rest of Latin America.
On the question of riots. These offer no real perspective for the development of the class struggle. Such riots are certainly an expression of social discontent, but in themselves they lead no where. As you point out the bourgeoisie can deal with them. It is only through uniting this real social discontent with the struggle of the proletariat that the attacks of the ruling class can be pushed back.

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Khawaga
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Sep 27 2007 12:25

Ernie, do you have any links to the Latin American struggles? I'd very much like to read them. I've been extremely interested in food riots ever since I read about the Egyptian one.

Agree with you about riots and development of the class struggle. For most leftist groups the riots came as a complete surprise on them... just goes to show how out of touch 'the left' had become and to a certain extent how utterly defeated they were.

Biofuels is seriously messed up. Do you know if the rise in the price of flour is directly linked to biofules, or is there something else going on? Do you have any data?

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Demogorgon303
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Sep 27 2007 12:43

It's partly biofuel but it's also increased demand from China and India. Russia and the Ukraine are also putting limits on their wheat exports which is worsening the situation. If you check my posts in the Stock Market thread, there are links to several articles. The UN was warning about the danger of social instability in the Third World caused by rising food prices over a month ago.

David in Atlanta
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Sep 27 2007 12:47
Quote:
The jump in corn prices is already affecting the cost of food. The most notable example: in Mexico, which gets much of its corn from the United States, the price of corn tortillas has doubled in the past year, according to press reports, setting off large protest marches in Mexico City. It's almost certain that most of the rise in corn prices is due to the U.S. ethanol policy, says David Victor, director of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University.

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/18173/

Quote:
MEXICO CITY: Published: February 1, 2007
Tens of thousands of workers and farmers filled this city's central square on Wednesday to protest spiraling food prices, ratcheting up the volume over a problem that has dogged President Felipe Calderón in his first weeks in office.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/02/01/america/web.0201mexico.php

Mark.
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Sep 27 2007 15:19

Pictures of the unrest in Sefrou here

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Sam
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Sep 27 2007 16:44

I didn't know the biofuel thing effected wheat aswell. At one of the more interesting workshops at EF! which was a critical look at biofuels, also talked about protest happening in indonesia aswell, things like are getting seemingly more widespread.

Mark.
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Sep 27 2007 18:22
Sam wrote:
I didn't know the biofuel thing effected wheat aswell. At one of the more interesting workshops at EF! which was a critical look at biofuels, also talked about protest happening in indonesia aswell, things like are getting seemingly more widespread.

The MST-Brazil thread has a longish article about a change in direction by the MST landless workers movement, largely in response to the expansion of agribusiness, including biofuel plantations.

ernie
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Sep 28 2007 17:52

Khawaga I cannot do better than David's links. However, here are a couple of links to some articles we have done on the wider question of riots and social unrest that you may find interesting;
-'popular revolts ' in Latin America: it is class autonomy that is vital to the proletariat, http://en.internationalism.org/ir/117_argentina.html
- revolts in Argentina, http://en.internationalism.org/ir/109_argentina.html

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 28 2007 18:18
David in Atlanta wrote:
Quote:
The jump in corn prices is already affecting the cost of food. The most notable example: in Mexico, which gets much of its corn from the United States, the price of corn tortillas has doubled in the past year, according to press reports, setting off large protest marches in Mexico City. It's almost certain that most of the rise in corn prices is due to the U.S. ethanol policy, says David Victor, director of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University.

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/18173/

Quote:
MEXICO CITY: Published: February 1, 2007
Tens of thousands of workers and farmers filled this city's central square on Wednesday to protest spiraling food prices, ratcheting up the volume over a problem that has dogged President Felipe Calderón in his first weeks in office.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/02/01/america/web.0201mexico.php

That was widely seen as a real under-reaction though. This sort of inflation kills huge numbers of people.

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JoeMaguire
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Sep 30 2007 20:50

Does anyone want to speculate what the wider rammifications of all this are?

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Khawaga
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Sep 30 2007 21:20

Well one thing is that we might see a return of a wave of food riots in countries where wheat/bread is subsidized, depending on the prize being that high and the fact that a lot of developing countries do have to import wheat. It could be a double whammy since the same countries also often subsidize fuel, and those prizes are also sky high.

Terry
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Oct 4 2007 21:18

LONDON (Reuters) - Soaring food prices will hurt the world's poor and increase the risks of political upheaval, a senior United Nations food agency official said on Thursday.

"We are squeezed between increasing oil prices and food price hikes," said Alexander Sarris, director, commodities and trade, of the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

He said the world's poorest people were the most vulnerable to the impact of surging grain prices, driven by falling stocks, rising production costs due to higher energy prices, adverse weather, faster economic growth and increasing biofuels demand.

The slide of the dollar against other currencies had not helped, as budget allocations for aid by the United States, the world's top food aid donor, bought less food, Sarris told Reuters at a commodities conference.

"Food aid shipments are going down because the (U.S.) Congress approves a dollar amount and that means lower quantities being shipped," he said.

Sarris spoke of increasing risks of political instability in developing countries as the world's poorest people struggled with rising food costs.

"Countries might close borders to exports," he said, noting that if food supplies are tight, countries might prevent food from crossing their boundaries.

"A lot of problems going on (in food distribution) means more political upheaval," he added.

Sarris was a keynote speaker at the four-day Commodities Week Europe 2007 conference in London, which concludes on Thursday.