Grain trade disruption could cause severe repercussions on dietary energy and protein consumption in the Middle East – study
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s heavy reliance on grain imports as a source of dietary calories and protein poses major risks to food security and nutrition level among its populations, say researchers.
Due to inadequate arable lands, water scarcity, evolving dietary habits, climate change, and ongoing geopolitical conflicts, the region faces significant food security challenges.
These are exacerbated by rapid population growth, which has exceeded 2% annually and is higher than the global average for middle-income countries (1.3%).
Consequently, MENA countries are highly dependent on imports, especially of grains, which account for most of the supply. This causes the region to be vulnerable to trade disruptions, food shortages, and price fluctuations.
Recent studies have shown that the reliance on imports is expected to increase in the years ahead. However, there is a lack of research on the quantitative link between imported grains and dietary energy and protein supply, as well as the impact of trade disruption on diets.
As such, a group of researchers utilised statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the average dietary and nutritional value of grains to calculate the per capita energy and protein consumption that are attributable to imported grains.
The study includes 18 countries, ranging from low-income countries like Yemen to wealthier ones such as Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
It is found that MENA currently consumes 156m ton (Mt) of grain for food and feed per year, of which 68Mt is produced locally and 88Mt imported.
Among these, 94Mt is directly consumed by humans, with wheat (62 Mt) being the predominant commodity.
At the same time, livestock production, of which 29% are poultry meat and eggs, consumes 74% of total grain usage for feed.