Food trade relations of the Middle East and North Africa with tropical countries
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The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the world’s largest importer of food, especially of cereals, sugar and poultry. Tropical regions have gained growing importance as suppliers of such commodities in recent decades. Latin America and Africa in particular have been identified as sources of future agricultural growth that could provide exportable surpluses to the MENA and other food import dependent regions, such as East Asia. Foreign investors, host governments, local communities and international organizations are crucial actors in these agricultural expansion processes, which do, however, entail ecological and socio-economic risks. The article provides a historical perspective of tropical agriculture and the MENA in various food regimes since the 19th century. It then outlines the importance of tropical agriculture and the MENA in global food trade flows and analyzes to what extent the MENA relies on countries with tropical agriculture in its food trade. Finally, it takes a look at agricultural investment flows from the MENA to the tropics. Associated political and socio-economic issues are analyzed, reasons for a marked implementation gap are identified and finally how such investments might relate to MENA food security strategies is discussed.
KeywordsFood trade Middle East and North Africa Food regimes Tropical agriculture Land acquisitions
A Marie Curie grant of the European Commission and the OCP Policy Center supported research for this article.
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