The agricultural sector, the interest and challenges it faces in the Middle East

Date: 12 - 10 - 2023


Source: Al Wafd Newspaper

Dr.. Ali Mohamed Al-Khouri

The agricultural sector is one of the vital sectors in any country around the world, and paying attention to it eliminates many crises and adds many economic and strategic advantages to countries, especially with the increase in food crises around the world, with the decrease in agricultural area, and with the occurrence of dangerous climate changes on the globe, which caused waves Severe drought in many regions of the world, with waves of floods and severe hurricanes, causing the destruction of millions of hectares of land in many regions around the world, which led to a shortage in food supply chains in many regions around the world.

There is no doubt that all of these matters have resulted in global interest in the agricultural sector, and our Arab region and the Middle East are not isolated from the world, and the agricultural sector constitutes the most important productive, vital and strategic sectors, as it enhances the economy of most countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, as most countries depend on This region relies heavily on agriculture, especially those near the Mediterranean Sea.

The contribution of the agricultural sector to the Arab economy varies from one country to another.

The contribution rate of the agricultural sector to the overall economy varies between Arab countries. For example, in Saudi Arabia, the contribution rate of the agricultural sector is about 3.2%, while in the Emirates, the contribution rate of the agricultural sector represents about 15.3 billion dirhams in the year 2022, and it is expected to increase by 28% in 2025 and reach To 19 billion dirhams, while in Egypt, its contribution rate is 15% in 2022, and the use of modern agricultural equipment in irrigation has contributed to the production of a large amount of high-value commercial crops, including vegetables, grains, sugar, and fruits, and barley and wheat are among the main crops grown in the region. The Middle East.

Large quantities of lentils, corn, rice, chickpeas, fruits and vegetables are also produced throughout the region, especially in Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco. Agricultural production is considered the main focus of the economy of some countries such as Tunisia, where grains and olive oil are mainly produced. Half of Tunisia’s land is cultivated. With grains, the other third of this land has also been cultivated with other crops. Tunisia is considered one of the major countries producing and exporting olive oil in the world. It also exports citrus fruits and dates, which are grown in the northern parts of the country.

The Middle East region imports 50% of its food

The countries of the Middle East, including the countries of the Arab world, import 50% of the food that is consumed, and this large percentage makes these countries at the mercy of high food prices and fluctuations in global markets. Therefore, local agriculture is considered of strategic importance in all countries of the Arab world, and countries Non-food producing countries, such as the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, seek to secure their food needs by providing productive agricultural lands in other countries, in order to provide the food they need for their people, away from international fluctuations and crises.

The agricultural sector provides millions of job opportunities in the Middle East

The total area of ​​the Arab countries is about 1,402 million hectares, or about 10.2% of the total land area in the world. The area of ​​arable land is estimated at about 197 million hectares (14.1% of the total area). The agricultural sector provides millions of different job opportunities, with which many industries overlap. Various foodstuffs, including fodder, meat, jam, and cheese of all kinds, and all dairy products, and sugar of all kinds, and many different industries, which provide millions of job opportunities, as the number of workers in the agricultural sector is about 27 million workers, with a percentage of approximately 30% of the percentage of workers in the East. The Middle East and the Arab world, and with development and various studies, these percentages are able to rise, whether in terms of contribution to the economy, local national income, or job opportunities that are provided.

Challenges and problems facing the agricultural sector in the Middle East and the Arab world

  • The scarcity of modern methods used in agriculture, which contributed to reducing agricultural production.
  • Many residents of the Arab world turned to the professional and industrial side in the cities instead of heading towards agriculture, which led to a lack of awareness about the mechanisms of agriculture.
  • Many Arab countries suffer from the scourge of wars, internal conflicts, and civil wars, which has led to the destruction of large areas of agricultural land.
  • The increase in population density in the Arab world in recent decades and years has pushed its countries towards horizontal urban sprawl to provide housing and eliminate hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural land.
  • The scarcity of water in the Arab world and the West’s control over most of it has contributed to reducing areas for irrigation and agriculture.
  • Agricultural land is used more for construction than for agriculture.
  • Lack of proper and very important use of manpower.
  • Not using modern tools and capabilities that help increase plant productivity and reduce problems with nutrition.
  • The heavy dependence on imports is greater than the country’s dependence on self-sufficiency.
  • Lack of extensive experience among farmers.

It is worth noting that the world is witnessing very large demographic, geological, political and economic changes that will determine the features of the world in the future, and among those changes is the severe shortage of food chain supplies around the world, and the ban of many countries on the export of rice and wheat around the world, and therefore the Arab world must use all material means. And possible scientific, human and technological resources in order to benefit from all the existing capabilities in the region, in order to provide all agricultural lands, while using advanced technological resources, genetic engineering and science in productive agriculture in order to achieve self-sufficiency in food sources in the region.