Anticipating Net Population Outflow in Libya

The situation in Libya is of course of huge concern on a humanitarian level – but there will most probably also be a lasting impact on dairy and beverage consumption for 2011. One of the main reasons is our own assessment of the Libyan population structure to date. Official statistics on Libya have always suggested a relatively tiny level of overall population, hovering in the region of 6 to 7 million. Working with those figures our per-capita consumption figures would have looked suspiciously high, in a regional context. However, in commercial circles in Libya there has always been the suggestion that the number of people residing in the country is significantly higher, with huge numbers of unofficial/illegal immigrants present (and highly visible) in addition to official numbers of mainly Egyptian immigrants. IMES has always, for this reason, adjusted population estimates for Libya upwards from any official figures – our estimate for 2010 stood at 9.1 million.

The events of early 2011 have seen the departure of huge numbers of officially-present expatriate workers to both Egypt and Tunisia – and presumably also some outflow of illegal immigrants. The reported role of foreign mercenaries employed by the regime will undoubtedly also bring about a popular backlash against the presence of – probably otherwise peaceful – unrecorded, African immigrants. There is also a distinct possibility that a net outflow of Libyan nationals- particularly wealthy ones- may take place. We at IMES are now working with an assumption that 2011 will see a lasting, and significant, reduction in population. At present our 2011 forecasts will work on an assumption that the numbers will contract by as much as a third – to 6.6 million. A recovery is expected for 2012 onwards, with especially Egyptian expats set to return (of course assumptions by nature will be vague given the changing daily picture) but dairy and beverage consumption is set to decline substantially through this population issue alone – let alone problems related to raw material sourcing, production, shipment, distribution and retailing. A glum picture – but we believe unfortunately a realistic one.

With best wishes to all colleagues with commercial dealings in Libya.– Thorsten

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