Last Friday saw a march of 20, 000 people through the streets of the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar.
When you take into consideration there are only just under 3 million people in the whole of this huge country, then that’s a substantial movement!
The protest was called by the Mongolian Confederation of Trade Unions. Demonstrators were demanding government action to stabilise prices of rice, meat and flour, and to guaratnee the incomes of poor people.
Banners said “Stop inflated food prices” and “Let the Salaries of the working class increase”.
A rally was addressed by S Ganbaatar, president of the Mongolian Confederation of Trade Unions: “We demand that the government of Mongolia take concrete action to stop the rising consumer prices which enrich a few companies and make lives of thousands of Mongolians unbearable.”
He said the price of a 25-kilogram, or 55-pound, bag of flour rose to $21.40 from $7.70 four months ago. A consequence of this is that the price of a loaf of bread went up 50% at the start of last week.
Mr Ganbaatar said the confederation would organize a nationwide strike if the government did not act to lower prices.
Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union Mongolia was closely aligned politcally with the USSR. During this period the country was virtually self sufficient in wheat grain.
However, since the 1990s privatisation of collectivised agriculture and turning the food regime on to the market has meant that more of the population’s daily food needs have been met by what were cheaper foreign imports.
In addition, the population has become increasingly urbanised, with 60% of the population living in towns (40% in the capital alone).
Now, with a global crisis in food prices, ordinary Mongolians are feeling the strain.