Afghans protest over rocketing food prices
Wed Apr 23, 2008
JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) – About 400 people demonstrated in eastern Afghanistan against skyrocketing food prices, witnesses said, in the country’s first protest at food costs rising worldwide.
The demonstrators blocked a key road linking the eastern town of Jalalabad to the capital Kabul and demanded the government step in to control prices at food markets.
“We can’t afford to buy food. We want the government to control the prices,” said one demonstrator, Rais Khan.
The protestors in particularly lashed out at Pakistan, which is the main supplier of food to Afghanistan but which in the past month has stopped wheat exports to its neighbour.
“Down with Pakistan,” demonstrators shouted, said an AFP reporter who put the crowd at 400.
The demonstration was the first such protest in Afghanistan, which is heavily reliant on food imports.
Rising fuel and food costs pushed inflation here to 17 percent in December, according to the Asian Development Bank, while around the world the increasing prices have prompted riots and protests.
The costs of wheat flour has reportedly more than doubled over the past year, with the prices of other staples such as oil and sugar also rising.
The government said Tuesday it was in contact with Kazakhstan, Pakistan and other countries about buying in 50 million dollars’ of wheat.
These nations were only willing to sell to the government and not the private sector, which may hoard the food or try to profit from it, presidential spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told reporters in Kabul.
“Countries like Kazakhstan, Pakistan and India, where we traditionally purchase food, also face food shortages and that is why they are not ready to sell food under easy circumstances to the private sector,” he said.
However, “We must make it clear that we are not facing famine but expensive prices,” he said.
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