By Ahmed Eljechtimi
MARRAKECH, Morocco, May 10 (Reuters) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is in talks with Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt to boost their food storage capacities and diversify their food suppliers, a senior bank official said on Tuesday.
The disruption of food supply chains and the surge in prices due to the war in Ukraine exacerbated inflation in North Africa and the Middle East region, which relies on Black Sea wheat imports.
It also strained the budget of many governments due to the surge in food subsidies cost.
"We are in early discussions on what is needed on capital investment to boost storage facilities," EBRD Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Managing Director Heike Hargmart told Reuters during the bank's annual meetings in Marrakech.
The EBRD is also working with the World Bank to help Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan move forward with a regional food security mechanism plan that the EBRD is supporting, she said.
Hargmart added the bank is in talks with its Egyptian and Moroccan banking partners to urge them to facilitate trade financing to accommodate increasing demand on food.
"In the last three months, there was an increased utilisation of trade guarantees and cash advances for food across the region," she said.
The EBRD expects to start operations in Algeria, the latest country in North Africa to become an EBRD shareholder, later this year, she said.
Iraq is in the process of completing the process of becoming an EBRD member, she said.
The bank is also looking to add eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, she said without offering further details.
(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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