According to a UN report, hunger in the Arab world has risen by 90 percent in 20 years, and there are 141 million people suffering from moderate or severe food deprivation, representing almost a third of the population of the Arab region.

These figures are still increasing continuously, according to the same report, as most Arab countries suffer from high inflation rates and high food prices, due to the repercussions of the Corona pandemic and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Official figures indicate that Arab countries import more than 50% of their food needs, and many of them depend on imports of grains and oils from Russia and Ukraine, which makes the import bill exorbitant and estimated at tens of billions of dollars, which increases the burden on Arab countries.

It is remarkable that Arab countries are living this difficult reality despite the fact that their arable land area is estimated at 220 million hectares, of which only a third is exploited, according to a documentary broadcast by the program "The Story Has a Rest" (2023/3/27), which shed light on the issue of Arab food security.

According to the documentary, the Arab world faces a major challenge of securing food for the people of the region in light of the lack of food supply chains globally, as the Arab world imports about 60% of its grain needs from Moscow and Kiev. Although it accounts for about 25% of world cereal production, it produces only 2.5%. Arab countries import 55% of their basic food needs, with a bill of about $ 61 billion in 2020.

The film pointed out that the estimated area of agriculture in the Arab world does not exceed 30.5%, which is equivalent to the total area of countries that are classified mostly among the top 15 wheat exporters in the world, such as Ukraine and Romania. Arab agricultural production accounts for only about 4 percent of global production.

Climate change in the world threatens that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is experiencing major changes in rainfall, resulting in a scarcity of available water resources, which is having an impact on the agricultural sector and food production, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Chronic problems

According to the 2020 report of the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development, achieving sustainable food security in the Arab world faces many chronic problems, most notably the expansion of productive capacities under the old irrigation systems, in addition to a great need to support and encourage agriculture and food processing, which raises many questions about ways to address the Arab food crisis and establish permanent agricultural food systems that push Arab countries to balance production and consumption.

Fadhel al-Zoubi, a food security expert at the Geneva Centre for Studies and former representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in the Middle East, said that the current Arab efforts, despite the growing interest of those responsible for agriculture, are not up to the required level, and are limited to scattered and insufficient efforts.

In a more comprehensive analysis, Mazen Soueid, head of the Investment Corporation in Lebanon and international economist Mazen Soueid, said that hyperinflation in the world, the collapse of banks in America, as well as the Corona pandemic, and Russia's war on Ukraine, all caused disruptions in the supply chain, which led to a steady rise in food prices, stressing that the issue of food security can only be addressed through a macroeconomic approach.

Arabic Models

The documentary, which was broadcast by "The Story Has a Rest", presented some examples of Arab countries, as the arable area in Sudan is estimated at about 84 million hectares, of which only 20% is exploited, and Sudan has a water wealth that is not available in any other Arab country, as it has 10 rivers that vary between seasonal and permanent flow, in addition to an annual rainfall rate of more than 400 billion cubic meters.

These resources have placed Sudan in the Arab food basket, but despite these potentials, the reality is that there are more than 9.8 million Sudanese suffering from acute hunger, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

According to FAO, Lebanon's agricultural sector has good potential and diverse agricultural land, but it nevertheless suffers from many obstacles as well, most notably informal employment, lack of regulation of land ownership, and difficulty for farmers to access support and finance, according to the Carnegie Middle East Institute.

An initiative that is considered the first of its kind in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon was established through the Lebanese Association for Studies and Training in 2019 under the name of the Agricultural Village, which provided many job opportunities for large segments in the region. The project promotes the development orientation of agriculture in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and includes agricultural extension and training, agricultural models for many vegetables and fruits, in addition to marketing production.

In Tunisia, agriculture is one of the pillars of the national economy, contributing about 11.2% of GDP, accounting for 13% of exports, attracting about 7% of total investments in the national economy, and providing 18% of job opportunities. These figures demonstrate the importance of Tunisia's agriculture sector. However, government support for agriculture is modest compared to other sectors such as tourism and industry.