How Arabs can tackle food security

Shehab Al-Makahleh
Shehab Al-Makahleh
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Arab states are particularly susceptible to food shortages and food-price shocks. Besides, recent prognoses reveal that Arab countries will be powerless to meet increasing demand with production.

Thus, there is a necessity to cultivate strategies to ameliorate food security which depends on consolidation of safety nets, enhancement of home food and management of market capriciousness.

This explains why Arab countries have a wide gap of food due to lack of agricultural fecund powers to meet the rise in demand for agricultural produces. This exacerbates into a predicament of food security which threatens their national security as their decisions are prone to political pressures from other states.

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The Arab world is undergoing food deficit that is becoming progressively critical. The volume of food production is inadequate to meet consumption, which requires the need to import from other countries to meet the growing needs and to offset the deficit. This poses excessive threats to Arab economies; affecting their political sovereignty and independence.

Since dependence on imports to meet basic needs of consumers would develop consumerism in the Arab countries to be a phenomenon that makes them loyal to imported products, such pattern would also destroy domestic products as well in favour of foreign goods. Why Arab states have food security concerns?

Arabs should be self-dependent and determined to improve and execute a rational stratagem for sustainable agricultural growth and food security

Shehab Al-Makahleh

Frail economies

Food scarcities are not only the upshots of feeble Arab economies, but may also be a foremost factor for keeping such economies frailer. The capitals to import products to payoff deficits and shortfalls are often those apportioned to acquire resources needed to bring about sustainable development and progress.

This disparity is primarily mirrored in foodstuff prices, where the majority of household budget is directed towards purchasing food. Thus, this will have a negative impact on other sectors such as the industrial, curbing countries’ ability to compete and grow.

The issue of food deficit in the Arab world is strongly attributed to the fragmentation of the Arab world and the lack of integrated strategic development planning at the national level, especially in the agricultural sector.

Though regional and international economic blocs have become a tool for economic progress, social development, and political unity, the Arab states have not yet managed to get rid of the dominion of illicit foreign countries’ plans and plots through food security. Lack of natural, human and financial resources are real reasons for this good shortfall for many Arab states. How to solve food shortfall?

Human resources

Accordingly, solving food shortfall in the Arab world can only be achieved through optimum utilization of economic potential and human resources. By increasing agricultural investments and controlling development of agricultural technologies, food production will increase to meet the growing demand.

To achieve such an objective, Arabs states should first advocate their economic integration, coordinate their policies and development plans, reduce disharmony and conflict, and reduce their independence on imported products to encourage local farmers to produce more as this business will be lucrative and profitable unlike the current one.

When foreign countries extend their assistance to the developing nations including Arab states, the main objective is to dominate their economies and to hamper them from producing adequate food supplies to meet the growing domestic demand. Agricultural assistance programs are used by developed nations to dominate the economies of the developing countries to dissuade them not to produce agricultural products.

Such food aid programs open others’ markets to purchase the donor’s products which will gradually replace all domestic products, including agricultural produce. Such aid programmes take the form of subsidies for basic commodities.

Within few years, food deficit facing Arab economies will not be solved by depending on foreign subsidies or donor nations; Arabs should be self-dependent and determined to improve and execute a lucid rational stratagem for sustainable agricultural growth and Arab food security.

Determinants of food strategy

Any strategy to accomplish food security in the Arab world must hinge on sustainable agricultural development to identify fundamental reasons of the problem of Arab food security to be able to find a drastic and long-term solution.

The aggregate number of population, the inadequate agricultural natural resources and lack of expertise to develop agricultural produce had aggravated food dilemma in the Arab world, augmented food gap and economic dependence of Arab countries.

Statistics indicate that the population of the Arab world has tripled in less than 30 years. The population rose from 122 million in 1970 to 350 million in 2017. The number is expected to hike again to 480 million by 2030.

This demographic explosion has put pressure on economic activities as agricultural produce cannot meet the growing demand for food. Moreover, the increasing number of population necessitates the development of limited natural resources.

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The arable area in the Arab world is estimated at about 200 million hectares, which constitutes 13.4 percent of the total area of the Arab states. The percentage of arable land cultivated for the year 2017 is about 41 percent.

The limited and poor utilization of water resources makes it impossible to cope with the growing demand to meet the needs of the population. As more than 50 per cent of water resources emanate from non-Arab countries, food and water security in Arab states will always be in the hands of others.

Unless Arab states enhance their efforts to reform their agricultural objectives and plans by improving their productive capabilities and competitiveness, developing natural resources and preserving the environment to achieve the objectives of current generation and generations to come in an integrated framework that serves the interests of all Arab countries, they will lag behind in food security and continue depending on other countries.

This would always affect their decision-making process and their sovereignty on the short, medium and long terms.
Shehab Al-Makahleh is Director of Geostrategic Media Center, senior media and political analyst in the Middle East, adviser to many international consultancies. He can be reached at: @shehabmakahleh and @Geostrat_ME.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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