Oil for Food: The Global Food Crisis and the Middle East

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The Global Food Crisis

Among the causes of the food crisis, the economic growth rates of the countries have an important place. Today, many countries in the world are experiencing high growth rates. The economic growth figures in China and India which have a particularly crowded population, are striking. For example, China's economic volume has been expanded to 6.


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In India, this rate is 7. This is a serious threat to food safety in the world as these sudden growth rates in developing countries directly increase consumption in the country. On the other hand, due to economic developments, the population flow from rural to urban is increasing day by day. This migration situation is one of the factors that contribute to the food crisis because the people change their consumption habits. The diversity of industrial post-agricultural products that emerged with economic globalization, which began in the years following World War II, also changed the consumers' habits of consumption.

Grain-based production and consumption demands in the past caused a supply-demand relationship based on meat, milk, fruit, and vegetables as a result of the changing and developing technological possibilities in agriculture. This has led many people to abandon traditional eating and drinking habits in much geography. The most obvious example of this is in Asia. Asian peoples having grain-based nutritional habits are starting to use much more calorie and protein products today.

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This tendency is predicted to increase further in the future. These consumption habits of the Asian peoples' nutrition also reflect their production in agriculture. The food problem, which poses a serious threat to the world societies, can cause internal conflicts and confusion in many geographies. Food insecurity, both as one of the results and as a driving force of conflict, leads millions of people to lose their lives.

This would have entailed high costs and copious energy consumption, in addition to environmental problems stemming from disposal of the brine that is a byproduct of desalination. However, despite declining domestic agriculture and a growing population, Gulf countries are food secure as long as they have enough foreign currency to import food from international markets.

One of the most salient food security-related challenges in the Gulf is actually not lack of calories, but an overabundance of them. They have some of the highest rates of obesity in the world.

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WPR: To what extent have Gulf Arab states sought to guarantee a stable food supply by buying or leasing farmland overseas? How have they addressed the resulting controversy from such large land acquisitions? Woertz: In the wake of the global food crisis of , in which a spike in food prices caused instability in many regions of the world, oil-producing nations in the Middle East announced multibillion-dollar investments to secure food supplies from outside the region.

These so-called land grab investments are at the heart of the global food security challenge, and they put the Middle East in the spotlight of simultaneous global crises in the fields of food, finance and energy. It is one of the most water-scarce regions in the world and highly dependent on food imports, while at the same time providing indispensable input factors to the global food system, such as fuels and fertilizers. Consumption of these inputs is a major contributing factor to climate change, which in turn threatens to undermine agricultural productivity and exports on which the Middle East so crucially depends.

So, the region is really in the middle of it all when it comes to questions regarding global food security.

In This Review

The announcements of lofty investments in agricultural land were often in food insecure countries like Sudan and Pakistan. Not surprisingly, this has caused international backlash.

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However, most of the proposed projects have not seen the light of day or have only been realized at a fraction of the announced scale. Het is echter in een enkel geval mogelijk dat door omstandigheden de bezorging vertraagd is.


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    E-mail deze pagina. Auteur: Eckart Woertz. Samenvatting In the wake of the global food crisis of Middle Eastern oil producers announced multi-billion investments to secure food supplies from abroad. Often called land grabs, such investments are at the heart of the global food security challenge and put the Middle East in the spotlight of simultaneous global crises in the fields of food, finance, and energy. Water scarcity here is most pronounced, import dependence growing, and the links between oil and food are manifold ranging from the economics of biofuels to climate change and the provision of crucial input factors like fuels and fertilizers.

    In the future, the Middle East will not only play a prominent role in global oil, but also in global food markets, this time on the consumption side. In Oil for Food, Eckart Woertz analyzes the geopolitical implications behind the current investment drive of Arab Gulf countries in food insecure countries like Sudan or Pakistan. Having lived in Dubai for seven years, and drawing on extensive archival sources and interviews, he gives the inside story of how regional food security concerns have developed historically, how domestic agro-lobbies shape policy making, and how the failed attempt to develop Sudan as an Arab bread-basket in the s carries important lessons for today's investments drive.