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May 20, 2010

Reliance on Food Imports by Arab States

Recently, the Arab agricultural development organization met in Algeria to discuss, “Arab Food Security”. Official reports revealed that Arab governments’ food imports from abroad reached $30 billion last year (2009).

This increase reflects a dangerous trend. According to Dr. Tariq B.N. Alzajah the director of the Arab Agricultural Development Organization, “there is a big and dangerous gap between agricultural production and food needs in the Arab world, despite a 12.4% increase in food production during the past two years (2007-2009).” He noted that wheat production increased from 49.9 million tons to 55 million tons, an increase of five million tons. Nevertheless, there are still shortages of food, especially of wheat and corn, to meet the increasing demands (Qharm.org, April 28, 2010). The increasing food imports in the Arab world to meet the growing demands reflects a dangerous trend that also should be viewed in light of the following factors. First, Arab population growth is projected to double by the year 2030, reaching at least 650 million people. Second, the Arab world is classified among the driest regions in the world. Nearly 2/3 of the land is classified as desert. Furthermore, the global weather warming will enhance further desertification in the region. Third, most of the countries in the Arab world are classified as water poverty stricken states. 18 out of the 22 states have less than 1000 cu. met./person/year according to the U.N. Fourth, a recent report by “FAO” – U.N. revealed that there are more than one billion people who are not getting enough food to eat on a daily basis. The report also projected that the world population will reach 9 billion people by the year 2050 and the demand f or food will also increase.

Are the political leaders of the Arab world aware of the food shortages? What are they doing to meet the present and future challenges of basic food needs?

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