Rosie DiManno, The Toronto Star
May 09, 2008 04:30 AM
KABUL—An elderly woman reaches into the depths of her burqa for a small plastic bag, not even the size of a grocery sack.
She’ll take this much flour.
It requires only two scoops from a burlap-lined bushel for the merchant to fill his customer’s bag, weighing the precious commodity on battered scales. A fistful of Afghan dollars changes hands.
This purchase will be barely sufficient for a family’s bread-baking needs for one day.
Afghanistan, among the poorest nations in the world, is a country that lives by bread, the flat oblongs that emerge steaming from clay ovens. For many, bread rolled round a ragout of vegetables can be the entirety of a meal.
It is literally the staff of life.
But in some acutely impoverished regions, famished Afghans have been reduced to buying bread crust by the gram, softening the hardened bits in water, unable to afford flour at all.
The global food crisis has slammed Afghanistan hard, despite a good grain harvest last year. Wheat prices have risen by an average of 60 per cent over 2007, 300 per cent during a spike period in the early months of 2008: 46 Afghanis per kilo. That’s less than $1, but this is a country where half the population lives below the poverty line.