The academic journal Food Security has just published a special section about MENA Food Trade Relations with Tropical Countries. It contains papers from a conference in Barcelona that was organized in January 2015 by CIDOB and the OCP Policy Center.
The introduction with a short description of all papers is open access and can be accessed here.
“The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is not only the largest oil exporter of the world, it is also its largest food importer. This import dependence will grow, given limited water and land resources on the supply side and population growth and more diversified diets on the demand side. In contrast to earlier food regimes, an increasing share of the MENA’s staple food imports such as corn, soybeans, palm oil, poultry, rice and sugar comes from tropical countries such as Brazil and Indonesia, where dramatic agricultural expansion has taken place. Other tropical regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa have looked to emulate such agricultural experiences, which are often based on large-scale and input intensive farming models. While such expansion processes have increased trade options of major importers such as the MENA, China and Japan, they have also had questionable ecological and socio-economic implications in the respective tropical countries.
Against this backdrop Eckart Woertz and Martin Keulertz set the scene in the opening article by analyzing food trade patterns of the MENA and the relative importance that tropical countries play in MENA food supplies. Their trade contribution has changed over different food regimes and now encompasses staple foods such as corn, rice and soybeans beside classical tropical export commodities. Woertz and Keulertz also discuss agricultural investment flows from the MENA to the tropics, associated political and socio-economic issues, a pronounced implementation gap of such investments and how they relate to MENA food security strategies. One of their conclusions is that food trading houses, storage strategies and brownfield investments in developed agro markets are more important as a trend than the widely publicized intention to acquire land in greenfield projects in developing countries.”
The Oxford Energy Forum has just published a special issue on Green Growth in the MENA.
It has articles on renewable energies, climate change policies, regulatory frameworks, economic diversification and suggests a reform of fuel subsidies. I have contributed and article on the water-energy-food nexus in the MENA.
The journal International Development Policy which is edited at the Graduate Institute in Geneva and is open access has just published a special issue on land acquisitions.
Beside theoretical articles it has a special focus on South-East Asia and the cultivation of industrial crops like rubber.
Martin Keulertz and I have contributed an article about States as Actors in International Argo-Investments where we compare the Gulf States with China and governments in agro exporter nations such as Brazil, Russia and Thailand.
Deborah Brautigam of SAIS at Johns Hopkins University has published a new book about Chinese Agro-Investments in Africa that is already available as e-book (as hardcover in November).
Like Oil for Food she points to misleading media perceptions and states a widespread implementation gap of Chinese agro-investments. She challenges four conventional wisdoms in particular:
a) Chinese land acquisitions in Africa have been limited.
b) Private actors have played a major role in Chinese agro-investments, the role of the state is less pronounced than commonly assumed.
c) There have been no grain exports from Africa to China. Chinese investments mainly target local markets. As far as food trade occurs it is rather the other way around, i.e. China exports food to Africa.
d) There has not been a large scale influx of Chinese peasant framers to Africa.
I have just returned from traveling in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq and CIDOB has published a short brief of mine on the Iraqi and Syrian refugee situation and implications for the EU.
Currently there are 4 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries and 7.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) within the country. This is half of the entire population and almost a fifth of the global refugee population.
Iraq now has 3.2 million IDPs, mostly from the ISIS provinces Anbar and Ninewa and 250,000 refugees from northern Syria. Beyond IDPs and refugees there are non-displaced Iraqis who suffer hardship, pushing the total tally of people who are in need of humanitarian assistance to 8.2 million.
The food security situation is challenging in both countries. IDPs and refugees engage in negative coping mechanisms like eating less and cheaper, spending savings, incurring debt and selling assets. As these strategies are reaching their limits the inclination to move on towards Europe is growing.
Refugees and IDPs constitute a considerable pressure on domestic services and resources in Iraq, at a time when oil price declines have led to budget shortfalls. Besides, there are security concerns and sectarian prejudice. Meanwhile assistance programs of the World Food Programme are severely underfunded. It is high time for the EU tho step in and fund emergency relief in the region, otherwise the refugee crisis will get worse.
OCP Policy Center and CIDOB invite the submission of papers that explore Reconfiguration of the Global South: Africa, Latin America and the “Asian Century”.
The conference will be held in Barcelona on 27-29 January 2016. For the full call for papers click here.
Proposals should be submitted electronically to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 30 October 2015.
Papers can deal with a broad based variety of topics that explore the mutual relationship and the positioning of the two continents in the emerging “Asian Century”, such as:
– Rise of emerging markets countries and what it means for an increasingly multilateral international system.
– New geopolitical constructions of the Global South: Asian vs. Western interests in Africa and Latin America.
– Theoretical approaches to democratization, transition and development.
– Trade and investment relations.
– Domestic growth strategies and development cooperation, particularly in infrastructure financing, energy, environmental preservation, agriculture and food security.
– Port cities and their role in facilitating exchange between the two continents.
– Maritime security and hard security issues.
– Free trade areas and regional association agreements.
– Migrant communities and cultural relations.
– Sustainable management of cities.
This article by Hadi Fathallah for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offers interesting insights on the current food security situation in Iraq, based on reports by international organizations like the World Food Programme, Arabic and western press reports.
The wheat harvest in ISIS controlled territory has declined, in contrast to civil servant salaries, producer subsidies from the central government in Baghdad do not reach ISIS territory anymore. The government has not budgeted funds for procurement of wheat from ISIS areas in its 2015 budget. The coverage of the Public Distribution System for refugees in non-ISIS territory is limited.
Food imports will need to increase at a time when oil prices have declined and more spending is directed towards military and security issues. The food security situation in Iraq is about to get more critical.
The report The Impact of Food Price Volatility and Food Inflation on Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries that CIDOB did in October 2014 for the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), can be downloaded here.
El Pais, Spain’s largest daily newspaper, has published an article of mine about “The Myth of Climate and Water Wars in the Middle East“ (in Spanish).
Like our earlier article in Footnote1 it argues that water scarcity and climate change are serious issues, but that primary reasons for unrest in the Middle East can be found in its political economy.
The climate and water war narratives might be intuitively appealing but they are not convincing in comparison. The environment is not an external category that would transform itself mechanically into sociopolitical outcomes.
This is quite big and exactly the kind of trade oriented investment in the value chains of developed agro markets that I have anticipated in the conclusion of Oil for Food.
Saudi government owned company SALIC teams up with international grain trader giant Bunge to buy a 50.1% stake in the former Canadian Wheat Board, which the Canadian government has now privatized. The other 49.9% will be owned by Canadian farmers.
SALIC was founded in 2012 in the wake of the King Abdullah Initiative for Agricultural Investments Abroad (KAISAIA).
I would expect more of this kind of investment rather than the widely publicized land investments in food insecure developing countries that have made media headlines, but have often not been implemented.
Martin Keulertz and I are dealing with the aspect of food trading companies and value chain investments in a forthcoming article in the fall issue of International Development Policy.