Libyan wheat importers face uncertainty

November 6, 2013

Chaos in Libya threatens wheat imports, Assad gunmen steal from Damascus residents, and Toronto mayor admits to using crack cocaine. Today is Wednesday, November 6, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

A customer inspects freshly-baked bread in a bakery in Tripoli, October 31, 2013. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Wheat woes. Libya’s unstable government, plagued by corruption and disorder since the Western-backed ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, is threatening importers’ ability to pay for wheat:

Global grain traders say big Libyan buyers are now having difficulty arranging import deals. Exporters abroad are worried about being paid on time, and about the additional risks of unloading ships in chaotic ports where armed militia members run rampant. The chairman of Matahan Tripoli, which buys wheat on international markets and sells flour and other processed foods to the state’s subsidized distribution system, said the government owed it $96.7 million…Without the state funds, the formerly state-owned milling firm would have to delay an order of 50,000 tonnes of wheat, intended to help feed the capital for three months, Idris said.

Libya may have to walk back its generous subsidy program to cut costs. According to data from the International Grains Council, 1.7 million tonnes of wheat are expected to be imported into Libya this year – a slight drop from last year’s 1.8 million tonnes, which breaks down to nearly six kilos per person per week. Last week, local protesters demanding a greater share of the oil wealth and blocking western oil fields for days refused to negotiate with the government, exacerbating the country’s oil crisis. On Tuesday, militias fought in Tripoli in one of the worst clashes in the capital city in weeks. The government now relies on militia soldiers for protection, rather than the weaker army. Last month, militia forces freed Libya’s prime minister after he was briefly abducted by a rival militia group. See more scenes of life in Libya below:

Anti-government protesters demonstrate against bombings and assassinations in Benghazi, November 3, 2013. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Men attempt to move other vehicles to keep them from catching fire after a car bomb blast near a school where a training workshop for municipal council elections was being held in Benghazi, October 26, 2013. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

State-sanctioned stealing. Damascus residents complain that militia forces serving Syrian President Bashar al- Assad are stealing their valuables, and that local police officers refuse to investigate. Militias called Popular Committees grant each new member a monthly stipend, Kalashnikov rifle, and a mandate to join vigilante missions with little oversight, transforming even the government-controlled capital into a lawless area.

Forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad hold up their weapons and erect a Syrian national flag at the village of al-Azizieh, on the northern edge of Safira, after capturing it from rebels, November 4, 2013. REUTERS/George Ourfalian

On Wednesday, a bomb killed eight people and wounded 50 in central Damascus, according to Syria’s state media. Syrian peace talks slated for this month are stalled by Washington and Moscow’s inability to agree on whether Iran should attend the talks, and who would represent the Syrian rebel movement.

Crack confession. On Tuesday, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted to smoking crack during his tenure but said he will stay in office and run for reelection next year. “Yes I have smoked crack cocaine… Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago,” he said.

Nic Bibassis from Toronto holds a sign as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (not seen) attends his weekly radio show at News Talk 1010 in Toronto November 3, 2013. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill. See more images of the scandal here.

A poll taken after Toronto’s police chief confirmed the existence of the video showing the mayor smoking crack put Ford’s approval level at 44 percent – a 5-point jump from an earlier count. Support for Ford in City Hall, however, has taken a hit. City Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong said he would ask the mayor to take a leave of absence, and one motion would restrict Ford’s powers in office.

Nota Bene: Muslim Brotherhood fail to overturn ban by Egyptian court.


Moo money – Cow insurance reassures pastoral Kenyans. (Al Jazeera)

Cruise control – Italy will limit the number of cruise ships that pass through Venice. (BBC)

Traveling trash – Debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami is heading towards America’s West Coast. (Quartz)

Merry Maduro – Venezuela’s president declares early Christmas. (Time)

Underground show – Parisian musicians vie to perform for commuters. (New York Times)

From the File:

  • Kerry meets Israeli, Palestinian leaders over troubled peace process.
  • Berlusconi says his kids feel persecuted like Jews by Hitler.
  • Dutch ask sea tribunal to demand Russia free Greenpeace activists.
  • Colombia government, rebels announce peace talks progress.
  • Bodies of seven kidnapped Afghans found with signs of torture: officials.
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