Global Food Security: Focus on the Middle East and Africa


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Learn more about food security in the Middle East and Northern Africa region in an Economist Intelligence Unit summary drawn from the 2013 Global Food Security Index

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Global Food Security: Focus on the Middle East and Africa

  1. 1. © Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013 Global Food Security Index 2013 Regional Focus: Middle East and North Africa Overview TheEconomistIntelligenceUnit(EIU)cre- atedtheGlobalFoodSecurityIndex(GFSI) in2012todeepenthedialogueonfoodin- securityandmeasurethestrengths,chal- lengesandrisksthatfoodsystemsfacein aconsistent,rigorousframework Sponsored by DuPont, the index assesses food security across three in- ternationally designated dimensions1 : affordability, availability and utilisa- tion—the last modified to assess food quality and safety. The index builds on existing food security research and frameworks, including the annual State of Food Insecurity in the World report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute(IFPRI),amongothers. Food security is complex and its driv- ers are interdependent, such that suffi- ciency of food alone, in any given coun- try,doesnotguaranteeanendtohunger or other issues. Internal and external factors can alter the availability, afford- ability and quality and safety of food in varying degrees. The GFSI applies a com- parative framework to national food sys- temstobetterunderstandtheunderlying drivers of food security. The countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region face unique food security chal- lenges posed by geography and demo- graphics. Rising GDP per capita in many countries in the region has, for example, altered consumption patterns—with im- pactseeninchangingtradepatternsand health outcomes. This summary explores theregionalscoresandkeyfindingsfrom theJuly2013releaseofthestudy. 1 Rome Declaration on World Food Security, FAO CorporateDocumentRepository,Rome,November 1996; Foodsecurity, World Health Organisation (WHO). Key regional findings l Food security varies significantly within the MENA region. Israel, ranked 17th globally, is the most se- curecountryintheregionfollowedby SaudiArabia,ranked31stglobally. l Political conflict reduced food secu- rity in Yemen and Syria during the past year. These two countries re- corded some of the biggest declines intheindex,eachdropping7places. Violent conflict not only reduced political stability but also hurt GDP growth, road infrastructure and ac- cesstopotablewater,andcurbedthe ability of formal grocery sectors to providefood. l The region has the highest agricul- turalimporttariffsintheworld,scor- ingbelowallotherregions.Egypthas the highest tariff rates in the region. Syria, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco all applied tariff rates on agricultural products that were on average over 20%. l Given the region’s strong institutions andinfrastructure,thepotentialgains from agricultural R&D are large. The region has world-class crop storage facilities along with excellent port in- frastructure. Governments have not, however, investment in agricultural R&Dsignificantlyandtheregionranks poorlyonthisindicator. Regional summary Uneventerrain Noregionintheworldfacesamorefood disparate environment than MENA. Is- rael, on the one hand, ranks 17th in the overall ranking, and first in the indica- tor for quality and safety of food. Israeli citizens have better access to water, qualityprotein,andothervitaminsthan any other country in the world. Yemen, on the other hand, ranks 93rd in the overall ranking, ahead of only Haiti and severalcountriesinSub-SaharanAfrica. In 2012, an alarming 45% of Yemenis did not have access to portable water. ConsideringtheMENAregionasawhole, only Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia rankedlower. The level of food security varies significantly in the region, but despite these differences, some regional trends emerge. The region has many of the highest agricultural tariffs in the world. Syria, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco all have applied tariff rates on agricultural products that were on average over 20%.Protectionisttariffpoliciestosup- port domestic producers can have both positive and negative effects on food systems and food affordability. Egypt, once considered the breadbasket of the Roman Empire, is currently the largest importer of wheat in the world. Even in aggregate terms, Egypt imports more wheat than China. Despite this depend- ency on wheat imports, Egypt applies the highest average tariffs on agricul- tural products at about 66%. Moreover, Egypt is actively attempting to protect domestic producers. In December 2012, Egypt raised tariffs on raw sugar by 17% only to remove them several months later due to their inconsistency with in- ternationaltraderegulations. A global index and key findings from The Economist Intelligence Unit Overallresultsbyregionandincomelevel Rank Score/100 1 NorthAmerica 88.9 2 Highincome 83.0 3 Europe&CentralAsia 72.0 4 EastAsia&Pacific 61.4 5 Uppermiddleincome 59.1 6 LatinAmerica&Caribbean 56.0 7 Allcountries 52.8 8 MiddleEast&NorthAfrica 51.8 9 Lowermiddleincome 38.5 10 SouthAsia 34.6 11 Sub-SaharanAfrica 26.3 12 Lowincome 24.3
  2. 2. © Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2013 Political conflict remains the largest source of food insecurity in the MENA region. In the 2013 GFSI, political in- stability caused the biggest declines in scores across the global scale and MENA wasnoexception. Politicsatthedinnertable The Arab Spring’s mark on the region hasbeenenormousandhasimpactedall aspects of life. The causes and drivers of these revolutions and protests relate to deep social structures and issues within the region. The catalyst, however, was a Tunisian street food vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself ablaze to protest the economic and social pains he and other fellow citizens felt. Food remains at the core of political life, par- ticularly in developing countries, where much larger portions of household in- comesgotowardsfood. Political conflict reduced food secu- rity in Yemen and Syria during the past year.Thesetwocountriesrecordedsome ofthebiggestdeclinesintheindexfrom 2012, both dropping seven places. Vio- lent conflict not only reduced political stability but also hurt GDP growth, road infrastructure and access to potable water, and curbed the ability of formal grocerysectorstoprovidefood. Syria’s internal conflict is currently frontandcenterontheglobalstage.Its resolution remains elusive and unde- termined. The solution to political sta- bility in the region is larger and more complicated than food security. But the latter is a requirement to achieve the former. Increased food security is a necessary component to achieving political stability. Findingtheanswers No single set of policies provides the answers to food security. Certain poli- ciescanmovecountriesclosertofinding their own answers to the ever-chang- ing challenge of feeding their popula- tions. A massive wave of investment in agricultural research and develop- ment, beginning in the 1940s and last- ing through the 1960s, is credited with saving billions from starvation. Repli- cating the Green Revolution, as it was eventually called, has proved elusive to other regions, most notably in Africa. A country’s institutional framework is paramount to capturing the benefits of R&D.Corruptionandpoorinfrastructure tax gains from investment. The MENA regionasawholedoespoorlyinagricul- tural investment. Its strong institutions and well-developed infrastructure, however,suggestthepotentialforlarge gainsonceimplemented. Bright spots do exist. Saudi Arabian policy-makers had longed pushed for food self-sufficiency. Recent reevalua- tion of this idea, along with supporting research by the FAO, found that the lev- els of subsidies required to achieve this goal were unsustainable, and the coun- try decided to entirely phase out wheat production by 2016. Wheat imports into the region are set to rise significantly. The Ministry of Agriculture has begun encouraging foreign investment in the sector. It is also pushing domestic firms to invest abroad. United Farmers Hold- ing Company, a Saudi Agribusiness con- sortium, recently placed a US$77m bid to buy Continental Farmers Group, an Irish firm. This recent strategic move, along with many others, has placed es- timates of Saudi foreign investment in agriculture into the tens of billions an- nually. Global Food Security 2013 Regional Focus: Middle East and North Africa Regional rank GlobalRank Country Agricultural tariffrate 1 17 Israel 16% 2 31 SaudiArabia 5% 3 47 Tunisia 33% 4 54 Jordan 18% 5 56 Egypt 66% 6 59 Morocco 41% 7 68 Algeria 23% 8 79 Syria 23% 9 93 Yemen 11% Regional rank Country PublicexpenditureonagriculturalR&D asa%ofagriculturalGDP 1 Israel 3% 2 SaudiArabia 3% 3 Tunisia 3% 4 Jordan 5% 5 Egypt 3% 6 Morocco 2% 7 Algeria 2% 8 Syria 1% 9 Yemen 1% Food security and political risk Source: Economist Intelligence Unit 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 OverallGFSIscore Political stability riskPolitical stability risk: Rating 0-100; 100=lowest risk Overall score: Rating 0–100; 100=most secure Syria Jordan Egypt Yemen Algeria Morocco Tunisia Saudi Arabia Israel