UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — As the sun sets in Khartoum, a group of men go to a bakery in the Sudanese capital to buy bread before breaking their Ramadan fast.
“The price of the loaf has increased in a very big way,” said Adel Abdul Rahman, buying a few loaves of bread from a bakery in northern Khartoum.
“We are facing difficult days. The loaf is a pound. I think the real price should be five or ten loaves a pound.”
The high price of bread in December sparked the first protests against ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Five months later, Sudanese people and bakery owners still insist that basic food prices remain high.
Protests broke out for the first time in the northern city of Atbara in response to rising prices and quickly turned into a national movement against Bashir’s three-decade rule.
The army overthrew Bashir on April 11 after thousands of protesters gathered outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum. But the protesters are still protesting, demanding the country’s military junta to hand over power to civilians.
– Bashir “destroyed” Sudan –
Bakery owner Abdel Rahim Mohammed says that although the rise in bread prices was the main factor for “people going out into the streets” against Bashir at first, there are other reasons as well.
“The Sudanese citizen is very simple,” he said. “He wants education, health and a safe life, nothing more.”
Over the years, anger has surged throughout Sudan due to the worsening economic crisis with inflation hitting 70% earlier this year, while the shortage of fuel and foreign currencies seems normal.
The Sudanese economy has suffered since the secession of the south in 2011, because it deprived him of most of the oil revenues and foreign currency that is badly needed.
To address the crisis, Sudan has taken a number of austerity measures, including cutting subsidies and devaluing the pound, but only fueling further anger among the people.
“Bashir and his henchmen destroyed the country,” says Abdul Rahman, waving a handful of loaves he bought from Abdel Rahim’s bakery.
The al-Bashir government has subsidized fuel, bread and many food commodities, leading to a large budget deficit.
The bread crisis also escalated with the government’s decision in January 2018 to stop importing wheat and leave it to private companies.
This led to a drop in the supply of wheat in the market, prompting producers of flour to increase their tariffs.
– “Excellence” –
Bakers say bread is readily available these days, after traders have received imported and locally subsidized wheat.
“After this period, we will be importing wheat again, but I do not expect a new crisis due to the support provided by the state,” said Badr al-Jalal, a member of the Bakeries Federation, referring to support for importers.
Sudan, with a population of about 40 million, remains one of the largest importers of wheat in the world market.
Sudan’s former finance minister, Ezzedine Ibrahim, says Sudan imports about 2.5 million tonnes a year to fill the consumption gap and because its domestic production is about 700,000 tons.
“Fuel, electricity and bread subsidies account for 35 percent of state spending,” he said, adding that the international financial institutions should help Sudan.
International observers believe the $ 3 billion aid package provided by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates after Bashir’s sacking is also expected to help tackle the bread crisis in the near and medium term.
Last week, Saudi Arabia deposited $ 250 million in the Sudanese central bank as part of a $ 3 billion aid package pledged by the kingdom and its ally the United Arab Emirates for Sudan, which faces a severe economic crisis that has been a major cause of protests against Bashir’s regime.
Fatima Hussein, who works as an accountant at Abdel Rahim Bakery, believes that not all Sudanese are as lucky as she is. “I have seven children and I need 50 pounds a day to buy bread for them,” she says. “I do not have that income.”
“Fortunately, I work here to give me bread, but others do not have that privilege.”
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.
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