Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Arab food security

An article in Al Safir on Arab Food Security, calling for a revival of the (alas anachronistic) idea of a Greater Arab Food Production Strategy and integration of the production capabilities of Arab countries. I remember this was a very fashionable idea during Nasser's time, and it was promoted by Arab Nationalists everywhere. The land of Sudan and Iraq, the waters of the Nile, the Euphrates and the Tigris, the local manpower and the investment capacity of the oil-rich Gulf: these were the central tenets of the concept. This of course never worked, I assume for political reasons (look at the sate of leadership in the Arab World). It would be interesting however to calculate the true potential of food production of the Arab World and see if together they can be net exporters, provided adequate technology and investment. For now, these are the figures presented in the article: In 1985, the value of food exports from the Arab World wa 13% that of the imports, which totaled 20 billion $. Things haven't gotten better since.

I'm not a supporter of the classical food security idea, and some degree of trade is necessary and healthy, but to be that dependent on food imports is just plain stupid. With the increase in demand for grain-fed meat in China and the high demand for cereals in many Arab countries and considering the limited world food supplies, the poorer Arab countries will soon be competing with Chinese livestock for their staple. Way to go.

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