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UN warns of ‘looming threat’ to Myanmar’s poorest as food and fuel prices spike in wake of coup 

Rising food and fuel prices pose a “looming threat” to the poorest in Myanmar as the political unrest caused by the February 1 coup begins to affect supply chains, the United Nations has warned. 

The organisation’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday that there had been “steep hikes” in the prices of staple goods in northern Rakhine state, with the average cost of cooking oil increasing 27% from January to February.  

The price of pulses in Maungdaw has jumped 15%, while rice prices have spiked by as much as 35% in some townships in Kachin state, such as Bhamo and Putao. Nationwide, rice prices have gone up by an average of 3%, the WFP said. 

And the price of fuel has increased 15% nationwide, which in turn may lead to further food price increases as the cost of transportation balloons. The problem is more severe in northern Rakhine, where petrol prices have jumped by 33% and diesel by 29%.

The WFP collected the data from 250 traders and shops across 70 townships nationwide. 

“These rising food and fuel prices are compounded by the near paralysis of the banking sector, slowdowns in remittances, and widespread limits on cash availability,” the WFP said in a statement. 

The programme’s Myanmar Country Director, Stephen Anderson, said the price increases were “troubling”. 

“Coming on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, if these price trends continue they will severely undermine the ability of the poorest and most vulnerable to put enough food on the family table.”

The WFP is stockpiling food to enable it to keep helping over 360,000 people in Myanmar, most of whom live in displacement camps.

Many parts of Myanmar’s economy have been brought to a standstill by strikes amid a massive popular uprising against the military regime. Foreign trade has virtually halted and banks have been forced to close their branches as employees refuse to work under the dictatorship.  

 

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