Food security in Middle East: What’s to expect next summer?

Food security is a crucial issue that affects the entire world, but it's particularly important in the Middle East where many countries such as Lebanon, Syria or Egypt heavily rely on food imports. With an increasing global population and climate change posing new challenges to agriculture, ensuring access to affordable and nutritious food becomes even more critical. So, what's to expect for the coming months?

lebanon middle east agriculture
One major challenge facing Lebanon is the ongoing refugee crisis, which has placed additional strain on limited resources and infrastructure. As a result, access to affordable and nutritious food remains an issue for many Lebanese citizens and refugees alike. ©CGIAR Genebank Platform

Lebanon, Syria or Egypt do not appear in the new list drawn up by the UN Agencies about “rising hunger risk” unlike Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia Sudan and Yemen. This should not be a consolation as nothing is set.

Lebanon is a country that has long struggled with food security issues, exacerbated by political instability and economic challenges. In the summer of 2023, Lebanon’s food security situation is expected to remain precarious due to a combination of factors.

One major challenge facing Lebanon is the ongoing refugee crisis, which has placed additional strain on limited resources and infrastructure. As a result, access to affordable and nutritious food remains an issue for many Lebanese citizens and refugees alike.

Furthermore, climate change continues to pose threats to agriculture in Lebanon. Extreme weather events such as droughts or floods can significantly impact crop yields and endanger livelihoods.

Another factor contributing to Lebanon’s food insecurity is its dependence on imports. The country relies heavily on imported wheat, which accounts for over 50% of its total cereal consumption. Any disruptions in global supply chains could lead to price increases or shortages in domestic markets.

Despite these challenges, there are some positive developments on the horizon for Lebanon’s agricultural sector. For instance, efforts are underway to promote sustainable farming practices through initiatives such as organic agriculture projects and agroforestry programs aimed at improving soil health.

While progress is being made towards improving food security in Lebanon, much work still needs to be done if the nation hopes to achieve self-sufficiency in this critical area by 2023.

“Good harvest” in Syria: dependence on imports should decrease

Syria‘s agriculture sector has faced significant challenges in recent years, due to the country’s ongoing civil war. However, after a ‘very good’ harvest season, Syria is expected to halve its wheat imports for 2023. This positive development could have a major impact on food security in the Middle East.

The Syrian government has implemented several measures to support local farmers and increase crop yields, including providing subsidized fertilizers and seeds. The increased investment in agricultural infrastructure and technology has also contributed to this success.

This improved harvest season is particularly important given that wheat is one of Syria’s staple crops. Reducing dependency on imports will not only save the country money but also ensure that Syrians have access to affordable food supplies.

However, despite these optimistic projections, it should be noted that many challenges still remain for Syria’s agriculture sector. Farmers continue to struggle with issues such as water scarcity and limited access to resources like tractors and irrigation equipment.

Though, this year’s harvest provides hope for a better future for Syrian farmers and their families.

Egypt vows to increase local grain production

Egypt, one of the largest wheat importers in the world, has been steadily increasing its local grain production. The country has put strategic plans in place to decrease reliance on international markets and adapt more diversification strategies.

The government is investing heavily in modernizing irrigation systems and expanding farmland to ensure a steady supply of crops. In addition, they are encouraging farmers to adopt new technologies like precision agriculture techniques and genetically modified seeds that can withstand harsh weather conditions.

These efforts have already started bearing fruit as Egypt’s domestic wheat production increased by 4% last year. With these positive projections for the future, Egypt expects to produce 9 million tons of wheat annually by 2023 – up from an estimated 8 million this year.

Apart from increasing their local grain production capacity, Egypt is also achieving food security through diversification strategies such as shifting towards growing other crops besides wheat like corn and rice. This move will help reduce over-reliance on a single crop while providing greater nutrition for citizens.

It seems that Egypt’s determined approach towards achieving self-sufficiency in food production is paying off well so far with promising results expected in the coming years.

Russia-Ukraine renew grain deal, but Kakhovka Dam collapse poses a new challenge

Russia-Ukraine relations have been strained for some time now, especially when it comes to grain trade. However, in recent news, the two nations have renewed their grain deal. While this may be seen as a positive step towards ensuring food security in the Middle East and beyond, doubts persist.

One of the primary concerns is whether Russia will actually deliver on its promises. In the past, there have been instances where Russia has failed to meet export targets due to various reasons like poor weather or internal politics.

Another issue is Ukraine’s ability to produce enough grains for both domestic consumption and exports. The country has been hit hard by droughts over the past few years which may affect their capacity to fulfill commitments made under this new agreement with Russia.

Furthermore, given that tensions between the two countries remain high after years of conflict over Crimea and other issues; it remains unclear how long this agreement will last before political considerations come into play once again.

Thus while renewing a grain deal might seem like a step forward for food security in the region and beyond; much still needs to happen before we can feel confident about future supplies being secured without any hiccups or interruptions along the way.

Talking about hiccups, the flooding following the Kakhovka Dam collapse led to a sudden increase in global crop prices. Making long-term forecasts is therefore more complicated than it seems. The summer of 2023 should be stable for Middle Eastern countries, but the next winter harvests could be impacted. See you in six months.