Challenges facing the food system in the Middle East and Africa

Date: 13 - 11 - 2023


Source: Al-Akhbar Almsaey  newspaper

Dr. Ali Muhammad Al-Khoury, President of the Arab Federation for the Digital Economy and Advisor to the Arab Economic Unity Council of the League of Arab States, confirmed that the global food system is currently facing major challenges that threaten food security in the Middle East and North Africa region.

These challenges come as a result of the continued Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, which greatly affects the region, which relies heavily on food imports. This region is one of the regions of the world most affected by geopolitical events and increasing climate change. Along with this, the food system suffers from global market disruptions and disruption of supply chains.

Al-Khoury said: Political instability and conflict are among the main factors contributing to food insecurity in the Arab region, as this has led to the disruption of food systems, the destruction of infrastructure, food shortages and malnutrition, and climate change and natural disasters are one of the root causes of its lack. The region suffers from drought, floods and extreme weather events, and these events can cause crop failure and livestock loss.

He pointed out that although the governments of the region are making serious attempts to confront public unrest and rising food prices through subsidies, wage increases and other benefits, these efforts have had mixed results and do not address the root cause of the problem. One of the main challenges is that many governments Arab countries did not develop infrastructure and economic reforms in the long term, which led to a macroeconomic imbalance.

Another weakness is the heavy reliance on food imports, scarcity of natural resources and low productivity, as well as the absence of measures to control the impact of a number of risks facing the region, which negatively affect the availability of food and gaps in food systems, including the conflict between Israel and Palestine in Gaza, the Ukrainian war and the recent turmoil in the global food market, as these indicators warn of great concern about food insecurity in the Arab region.

In addition, the high prices of food commodities constitute another challenge in assessing food security in the Arab region, with countries such as Morocco, Algeria, and Lebanon facing challenges in the field of food production and food security, and from the results of the Arab world’s inaction in confronting food shortages, especially since we have Countries that lack money to meet usual food needs, because prices are rising, and are unable to withstand these shocks, with which rapid measures must be taken by developing strategies that include quality in all stages of food production, by building agricultural and food systems that are able to withstand. This also requires investment and work on many fronts and sectors, including climate-smart agriculture, removing distortions from food markets, reforming support systems, and relying on financial markets to ensure addressing climate and disaster risks, water management, developing agricultural processing, and increasing green job growth rates.

Al-Khoury explained that improving agricultural practices and resource management is also necessary to build a sustainable and food-secure future in the Arab world. Moreover, increasing foreign exchange revenues from agricultural and food exports can help reduce dependence on food imports, especially since increasing Productivity can lead to increased purchasing power, and there is a need for Arab cooperation and coordination to address many threats facing the ability of national and local food systems to withstand, and flexible food systems are essential for progress towards achieving safe food.

Food insecurity represents an ongoing challenge in the Arab region, as it affects millions of people and poses a major threat to their health, well-being, and economic stability. Hence, efforts must be combined to develop a future vision for achieving food security, through projects to use modern technology, discoveries, and smart applications to modernize the agricultural sectors in it. And using modern technological options available for this basic approach, and achieving a major partnership from the Arab private sector, in the context of progress in achieving the sustainable development goals of the Arab countries 2030, in order to make agriculture, nutrition, and food systems more sustainable, and it is also necessary to focus efforts on supporting productivity. At the system level, reducing waste in the supply chain, and expanding most of the land arable or irrigated, to enhance food security efforts.

In general, it is necessary to direct efforts towards building sustainable and shock-resistant food systems in order to achieve food security in the Arab world. This requires serious investments and efforts from governments, the private sector and local communities to improve agricultural practices and enhance productivity. The purchasing power of citizens must also be strengthened and arable land expanded. Technology can be an important solution in this regard. Research and innovation in agriculture must be strengthened and modern and smart technologies must be adopted to increase productivity and reduce waste.

He added that achieving food security in the Arab world is an important challenge that requires sustainable efforts and strategic thinking. Directing attention to this issue and investing in developing the agricultural and food sector will contribute to achieving a better and more sustainable future for the Middle East and North Africa region.