Food Woes Set to Define Middle East

July 7, 2011 by  


By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

large fresh fruit basketThe fight for freedom and democracy rages on in many parts of the Middle East, as people clamor for change in their homelands. However, according to a recently released report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), denizens of the Arab world just might find themselves fighting over precious resources such as food over the next several decades.

At this year’s World Conference for Science Journalists, hosted by the government of Qatar, Regional Communications Manager for the IFAD Teysir Al Ganem said, “The Arab world is the region that is most hit by food imports and fluctuations in food prices. Some 65 million Arabs live on less than $2 a day and fluctuations in prices affect the number of poor people.” It’s no secret that the bulk of food in produce bins and on shelves in Middle Eastern grocery stores is imported from the West and a scant few agriculturally wealthy Arab states.  The IFAD projects that the Arab World will have little choice but to rely upon the food imports until 2050.

Climate change will have a dramatic affect on the capabilities of nations in the Middle East that are somewhat agriculturally stable. As a result of climatic changes, the Middle East region will be prone to increased drought, less rainfall and higher temperatures which are disastrous forces that will have a negative impact on countless agricultural projects. Population growth in the Arab world is another factor that will add to the food crisis as, according to the IFAD, the population in the Arab world will exceed well over 690 million people in the next 40 years.

Arab countries that do cultivate fruits and vegetables will have to rely on alternative methods to grow vegetation to cut costs and preserve the environment. Farmers in Yemen have already resorted to more traditional methods of sowing seeds and harvesting crops instead of relying upon automated machinery that is often expensive to purchase and utilize. However, despite the best efforts of farming communities in the Middle East, perceived ‘plagues’ such as locusts and black stem rust threaten to wipe out scores of crops before they come to maturity thus forcing a food pandemic that might cripple the region as a whole. 

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