Food Security in the Arab States

Prof. Dr. Moustafa El-Abdallah Al Kafry

Food Security in the Arab States

Food security remains a major issue in MENA - Economist Intelligence Unit

Prof. Dr. Moustafa El-Abdallah Al Kafry

Since the early seventies of the twentieth century, food security has become at the top of the list of topics and problems suffered by developing countries in general, and Arab countries in particular, and this issue has taken a prominent place in the economic policies of developed and developing countries alike. International and regional bodies direct a large part of their efforts to the food problem and provide proposals and solutions thereon. Despite this great interest, the real achievements in this regard at the international and Arab levels are quite modest, especially when measured by the magnitude of the problem and its future dimensions. [1]

The new international changes pose important challenges to the development of the agriculture and food production sector in order to increase the amount of agricultural production, develop and raise marketing efficiency and improve the level of food security. This necessitates new patterns of agricultural and investment policies and technological methods, adapted to needs and taking advantage of the new disc in trade liberalization, biological sciences and communication technology. [2]

The availability of resources in some areas makes it possible to ensure a decent level of food for the population at present. However, securing the continuity required for the future requires a realistic look at the available resources, their scarcity, the importance of preserving them and their continuity for future generations. It also requires serious attention to investing in the harnessing of modern science for this, and most of all, it requires the search for guaranteed alternatives that are in fact much closer than can be imagined. These alternatives are neglected farmland. [3]

The Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) emphasized the importance of food security in the Arab countries when, in its seventh annual report on the state of the environment in the region, published in November 2014, it focused on the need for a more efficient agriculture and water management system in the Arab countries.

“Food security is a major concern for Arab countries, as Arab countries continue to pursue the goal of securing a higher rate of food self-sufficiency, but achieving this goal remains elusive,” the report said. The report notes that the majority of Arab countries have limited areas of arable land and scarce water resources. [4]

The cultivation of food crops certainly depends on water, but what is available is limited in some Arab countries. The report of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development confirmed that Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Palestine, Jordan, Oman and Djibouti have very scarce water resources. Only Mauritania, Iraq and Somalia have sufficient levels of renewable water resources, such as rivers or springs. While such water resources are classified in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates as “extremely rare.” [5]

The issue is not a question of aid, but of   providing decent livelihoods, providing production and development capabilities in agricultural areas, and establishing sustainable agricultural livelihoods that eliminate need and ward off food security risks.  [6]

(The completeness of the nutritional value of foods is determined by the level that best provides the best picture of the functioning of the organs of the body and allows them to restore their activity and ability to function without harming health.) [7]

  • Does the population in all Arab countries eat enough food in terms of quantity and quality?
  • Is the current level of food consumption acceptable or is there a shortage and imbalance?

Features of the nutritional situation in the Arab countries:

One of the most important Features of the nutritional status in States English The population’s dependence on plant sources mainly to meet their needs for proteins and calories. Plant food sources provide about 87% of the population’s food, mainly cereals and sugar. (In the case of proteins, the population obtains 80% of these substances from animal sources.) The Arab countries differ from each other in the sources of access to the population of each state on their need for nutrients. [8]

We conclude from the available information that there is an imbalance in the nutritional situation, especially with regard to the lack of nutrients from animal sources. If we are to correct this imbalance, it requires the availability of more food from expensive sources such as animal sources.

This aspect of the problem needs to be taken into account when planning an integrated food situation. Although I see no justification for fixing such an imbalance as long as it is highly expensive and carries new burdens, what is wrong with obtaining food from plant sources?

The general average per capita food energy and proteins in the Arab world is 2441 kcal per day and 69 kilocalories per day. It is higher than the recommended global average for per capita dietary energy needs. With a large disparity between the per capita rate from one country to another. (In Libya, the average per capita is 2947 kcal per day, while the average per capita in Mauritania is about 2101 kcal per day.) It is necessary to emphasize here the achievement of equitable distribution of foodstuffs among the various classes and groups of society, especially with regard to the share of low-income people and the rate of their intake of foodstuffs.

Food consumption has increased at a higher rate than production, and this percentage varies from region to region and from one item to another. The most important reasons for the increase in consumption:

  • High population growth rate.
  • High average per capita income.

The government’s adoption of food price subsidy programs, which led to improving the nutritional standard of citizens and seeking to ensure equitable distribution.

The food crisis in the Arab countries is manifested by the general shortage of food products, which leads to the hunger of millions of people, and the spread of malnutrition and disease.

 (…The average food consumption per capita in most developing countries is less than the minimum necessary per capita (FAO) experts, which according to FAO experts estimate about 2250-2400 calories per day. [9]

60% of the population of Arab countries suffers from obvious and inconspicuous hunger. Millions of people, especially children, die of hunger and malnutrition.

It is useful to alert developing and Arab countries and determine the magnitude of the risks they face in the field of food security.

Prof. Dr. Moustafa El-Abdallah Al-Kafry

Faculty of Economics – Damascus University

[1] – Dr. Hassan Fahmi Gomaa, The Agricultural Question and Food Security in the Arab World, Arab Organization for Agricultural Development, 1985, p. 23.

[2] – See, The Needs of Developing Agriculture and Food Production in the Arab Countries, a study prepared by Mai Demashkieh Serhal, General Secretariat of the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture for the Arab Countries, 1997, p. 3.

[3]  – See, Dr. Mustafa Al-Abdullah Al-Kafri and Dr. Issam Khoury, Issues on Population and Development in the Arab World, Publications of the Ministry of Culture in the Syrian Arab Republic, Damascus, 1993, pp. 183-212.

[4] – Benjamin Plackett, Salim Njeim, Arab food security at risk and research is scarce! Al-Fanar media website, July 13, 2015.

[5] – Ibid.

[6] –  Report of the General Secretariat of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture for Arab Countries in the field of food security during 1997, Beirut, pp. 1-2

[7] – Ibid., p. 20.

[8] – Dr. Sobhi Al-Qassim, An Analytical Look at the Food Problem in the Arab Countries, Al-Shorouk Press, Beirut, 1982, Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation, p. 15.

[9] – Markov, The Problem of Nutrition and the Policy of Imperialism, House of Progress, Moscow, 1975, p. 18.

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