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Concerns about food security in the Middle East

Most countries in the Middle East are uncertain about the extent of production, as there could be a problem of shortages
 Ethiopian refugee woman next to a bag of rice donated by Kenyan officials in Moyale camp, Marsabit County, Kenya

PHOTO/ACNUR/WILL SWANSON  -   Ethiopian refugee woman next to a bag of rice donated by Kenyan officials in Moyale camp, Marsabit County, Kenya

In the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic crisis and the great capacity for famine to spread around the world, Middle Eastern governments have been forced to deal with its consequences, including an obsession with food security. 

This obsession is playing havoc with the minds of buyers, especially those in the Middle East who, despite skyrocketing prices, continue to buy wheat as a precautionary measure.  

According to a statement from the United Nations on Thursday, there will be a large increase in world trade in basic grains, the same as occurred last month with global food prices, which would lead to an increase in inflationary pressure for consumers and world governments.  

Ethiopian refugee woman next to a bag of rice donated by Kenyan officials in Moyale camp, Marsabit County, Kenya
PHOTO/ACNUR/WILL SWANSON -  Ethiopian refugee woman next to a bag of rice donated by Kenyan officials in Moyale camp, Marsabit County, Kenya

However, the price impact could be reduced for countries with higher oil revenues. 

Europe is a major supplier of wheat, the world's staple food, to parts of Africa and the Middle East, where bread price increases are being considered. 

Countries such as Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan are increasingly buying wheat following the drought earlier this year, which affected several crops in the areas, depleting supplies.  

The United Nations also reported that Egypt is also trying to replenish stocks.  

Nearly 8 million people in the Horn of Africa are internally displaced persons (IDPs)
REUTERS/ZOHR - Nearly 8 million people in the Horn of Africa are internally displaced persons (IDPs)

According to Abdolreza Abbassian, chief economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), "We may see impacts on other commodities, but I don't think we will see restrictions on wheat imports." 

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates global wheat stocks to reach 282 million tons during the 2021-2022 season, which would be 2.2% lower year-on-year. 

However, this estimate would be lower than last month's forecast of 284 million tons.  

Estimates of the vulnerability of major cities to climate change
AFP/AFP -  Estimates of the vulnerability of major cities to climate change

According to the "Bloomberg" agency, FAO estimated production for the season at a lower amount, 6 million tons less than last October, 771 million tons in total.  

Due to increased imports from Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan, world wheat trade increased to 192 million tons, a record level.  

However, according to FAO, the forecast for cereal stocks was 819 million tons, up from October. 

Estimates for world corn stocks have also been increased in India, Brazil, and West Africa. 

Droughts, aggravated by the global climate crisis, have contributed to the desertification of large regions in East Africa
AP/HALDEN KROG - Droughts, aggravated by the global climate crisis, have contributed to the desertification of large regions in East Africa

During this year, Iraq imported about 3 million tons of wheat, despite achieving self-sufficiency in wheat and barley cultivation, egg and poultry production in 2019.  

Saudi Arabia resorted to buying 1.3 million tons of wheat at the end of last week, which is almost double the expected amount.  

Due to wars and ongoing natural disasters caused by climate change, huge tracts of land have been exposed, causing grain stocks to dwindle.  

Dry agricultural field in the Saadiya area, north of Diyala, eastern Iraq, June 24, 2021.
AFP/ AHMAD AL-RUBAYE - Dry agricultural field in the Saadiya area, north of Diyala, eastern Iraq, June 24, 2021

An estimated 133,000 people suffered from famine last year, especially in Yemen, South Sudan, and Syria, where 12.4 million people are food insecure, according to the UN.  

Disasters due to climate change were the main cause of food insecurity for nearly 15 million people, in 2020, down from the 2019 figure of 34 million people worldwide.  

As for oil-rich countries, as is the situation in the Gulf, there has been increased concern about the impact of food insecurity following the fall in oil prices and the consequences of wars and the Coronavirus pandemic crisis, although no food shortages have been detected. 

This photo, taken on June 20, 2021, shows the desiccated body of a dead fish on the drying earth in the Chibayesh reservoir in the Ahwar area of southern Iraq
AFP/ASAAD NIAZI - This photo, taken on June 20, 2021, shows the desiccated body of a dead fish on the drying earth in the Chibayesh reservoir in the Ahwar area of southern Iraq

Regarding food supply, dependence on international trade causes countries to become more vulnerable to the availability of supply and the risk of price increases.  

Previous reports show that economic and political conditions in food exporting countries also affect this vulnerability. 

According to a United Nations study last June, high rates of famine are expected in the Arab region, directly affecting the goal of eradicating hunger in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.