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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Jul 24, 2010

Population Growth and the Shortage of Food

In the previous post, references were made to the rapid increase of population in the Arab world. The negative consequences of this growth are reflected in several important economic and social sectors of Arab society. First, the Arab world is classified as non-sufficient in food production and relies heavily on food imports to meet its basic needs. In 2009, the Arab world imported food at a cost of more than $31 billion. This cost will more than double during the next 20-25 years, especially if population growth continues at the same rate. For example, Egypt, the most populated country in the region, with 82 million people, imported 70% of its basic food needs. Many Arab states, especially the most populated ones, are not far away in food import like Egypt. Keep in mind that the world demand for food, especially in the developing nations of Africa and Asia, is also increasing and this will lead to price increases of food globally. It is interesting to note that the cost of food imported in the Arab world in 1970 was equal to $2.1 billion. During the past four decades, the cost of food imported increased by more than 15 fold.

There are several factors that contribute to the lack of increasing food productivity in the Arab world. One factor is the meager financial investment in the agricultural sectors in various Arab states. Also, the lack of knowledge and scientific research in the agricultural sector do not provide the “know how” in many Arab countries in terms of improving agricultural productivity.

Secondly, more than two-thirds of Arab land is classified as barren desert and is unsuitable for cultivation. Of the less than one-third of the land that is under cultivation, 85% depends on the annual rainfall. Most of it takes place along the seashore land in the region. Furthermore, the region has been experiencing droughts with longer duration that have lead to a lower agricultural productivity. The other 15% of the land depends on irrigation from the flowing water of the Nile and the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. The three major rivers start beyond the national boundaries of the Arab world. It is also of interest to note that the flow of water of the three rivers is now creating tension.
An example is Egypt’s recent conflict with the Nile River basin countries because of water sharing, which has been covered in the news. Also, Syria and Iraq have been talking with Turkey regarding the slowing of water flow in both the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers due to the construction of dams in Turkey. Iraq, which has been impacted more than Syria, began to rely more on food imports, which is a reversal of its former role of being a food exporter.

The third factor that also negatively impacts agricultural cultivation in the Arab world is the global weather changes and the increase in temperature. This has lead to an increase in dryness and droughts in the Middle East and North African region. Such situations are increasing the possibility of further desertification of the region.

The fourth factor, which has also contributed to lower food productivity in the Arab world is also attributed to the scarcity of water. In previous posts we have noted that 19 of the 22 Arab states are classified as water poverty stricken. In conclusion, the population growth in the Arab world needs to be curtailed in order for future generations to survive.

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