Oxfam fears Palestinian wheat supply could run out within three weeks

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Ukraine conflict worsening food crisis and decimating families’ purchasing power

Wheat flour reserves in the Occupied Palestinian Territory could be exhausted within three weeks and the cost of this food staple has surged by nearly 25% because of the Ukraine crisis, warns Oxfam.

“Palestinian households are being hit hard by rising global food prices, and many are struggling to meet their basic needs. The reliance on imports and the constraints forced upon them by Israel’s continuing military occupation, settler violence and land-grabs are compounding the food crisis,” says Shane Stevenson, Oxfam Country Director in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.

According to the World Food Program, the Ukraine crisis has increased food prices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory such as wheat flour (up by 23.6%), corn oil (26.3%) lentils (17.6%) and table salt (30%), decimating Palestinians’ purchasing power. The cost of wheat bran, used as animal feed, has also spiked 60%, compounding the hardship on farmers and herders.

The Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute, MAS, told Oxfam: "Effective policies must be taken by the government in order to find urgent alternatives to wheat and flour imported from Russia and Ukraine. This is critical in order to protect poor and marginalized families from rising food insecurity and fluctuations in the supply chain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government must monitor and control prices in local markets and prevent monopoly on basic commodities .”

In the West Bank, the fertile lands within Area C could offer a solution to the deepening food crisis and reduce Palestinian dependence on imports. However, the Israeli authorities – who maintain full civil and military control of Area C under the Oslo Agreement – have rejected 99% of all construction plans put forward by Palestinians to develop the area.

Coordinated diplomatic pressure by the United States and the international community is needed to challenge these restrictive policies to ensure that Palestinians can invest in local food production and infrastructure.

In the Gaza Strip, most households are now buying food on credit, and many families are being forced to eat less, and restrict the purchase of more expensive items like proteins and fresh fruit, to make ends meet.

Najla Shawa, Oxfam’s Head of Food Security in Gaza, said: “Every day we meet people who are searching for jobs and money just to feed their children. We feel very stuck at this stage. How can we draw attention from the international community to the deteriorating socio-economic situation in Gaza? Our work in Gaza is becoming increasingly challenging. It is difficult to describe the true level of damage that all this is causing on people's lives – it is devastating."

The United States and the international community must continue pressing for the immediate end of the blockade on Gaza, and invest in long-term solutions to promote economic growth and sustainable development in Gaza, grounded in the movement and access of people and goods.

Note to editors

  • For more information please contact [email protected] (OPT) or [email protected] (global)
  • Area C, which consists of 60% of the West Bank, is both critical to the geographic integrity of the territory and the future prospects for a viable Palestinian state.
  • The Ministry of National Economy estimates that its wheat flour reserves will last around 2-3 months, but economic experts dispute this, saying stocks could be exhausted in 2-3 weeks. In order to cope with rising food prices the Ministry of National Economy added VAT exemptions of 16% on wheat flour (25kg and above) for 3 months (March – May), as well as a VAT exemption of 16% for bakeries for 3 months.
  • In 2022, 2.1 million Palestinians across the OPT will require some form of humanitarian assistance, of whom 64 per cent, or 1.3 million people, live in Gaza.[1] Food insecurity has reached 31.2% in Palestine. In Gaza food insecurity has reached 64% compared to 9 % in the West Bank.[2] Vulnerable families in the West Bank and Gaza rely heavily on both humanitarian assistance and support from the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development (MoSD), which manages the national social protection system, including the Palestinian National Cash Transfer Programme (PNCTP).[3]
  • Oxfam together with the ILO, UNICEF and local partners are providing support to the Ministry of Social Development's Sector Strategy to ensure that a rights-based and cross-nexus programmatic coherence of social protection is enhanced.

[1] OCHA, Humanitarian Key Facts. March 2022.

[2] WFP. Impact of the Ukraine Crisis on the Economic Situation in Palestine. March 2022

[3] Responsiveness of the Palestinian National Cash Programme to Shifting Vulnerabilities in the Gaza Strip (openrepository.com)

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