Food, Agriculture, and Economic Policy in the Middle East and North Africa: Volume 5


Table of contents

(18 chapters)

List of contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Pages ix-x
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Page xiii
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Pages xv-xxv
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In MENA, household food insecurity, which is closely related to poverty and undernourishment, is most severe in rural areas and concentrated within Iraq, Sudan, and Yemen. Twenty-five percent of the MENA population may be poor and 7% undernourished. The key to increased national and household-level food security is pro-poor growth, driven by export-oriented, labor-intensive sectors. Agricultural sector policies should be subordinate to the pro-poor growth goal and not to the goal of food self-sufficiency. Such a strategy requires conflict resolution; macroeconomic stability; physical and human capital accumulation; reliance on markets and the private sector, and diffusion of ecologically friendly farming practices.

MENA countries will face increasing pressures to improve competitiveness in existing export sectors and to develop new areas of comparative advantage. Today, exports remain heavily concentrated in mineral fuels; export capacity in manufacturing is among the lowest in the world. However, MENA economies also demonstrate dynamism and global competitiveness in natural resource sectors, especially in high-value agriculture. A strategy to develop new areas of comparative advantage includes promoting knowledge and R&D-intensive natural resource exports and a world class trade logistics system. Greater attention to commodity-logistic chains may also help identify potential supporters of reforms.

MENA is among the most water-challenged regions globally. While ‘outsiders” advising policy makers have become increasingly strident in their demands that the region adopt economic/market principles in managing water, policy makers in the region have been able to resist these suggestions. We take an interdisciplinary approach, arguing that the existence of a sanctioned discourse that defines water as a social, rather than an economic, resource contributes to this outcome. At the same time, policy makers have been able to avoid addressing water deficits, because of the availability of cheap virtual water, primarily in the form of grain imports.

Drought is a severe problem in the MENA region and most governments intervene to assist their farmers. Once institutionalized, drought assistance changes the way farmers manage resources, often with increased productivity and improved livelihoods. But when assistance is heavily subsidized, farmers may adopt excessively risky farming practices, with increased losses and a greater dependence on government in drought years. The feed subsidy and credit programs in the MENA region help farmers in drought years, but they have also contributed to over-grazing and crop expansion into drought-prone areas. Better alternatives could be area-based rainfall insurance and the development of drought forecasting information systems.

The Egyptian food subsidy system is untargeted. Its impact on the welfare of the poor has been questioned. Using 1997 survey data, this paper shows that the Egyptian food subsidy system is self-targeted to the poor, because it subsidizes “inferior” goods. In urban Egypt, the main subsidized food - baladi bread - is consumed more by the poor than the rich. However, in rural Egypt where the poor eat less baladi bread, the poor do not benefit as much. For this reason, administrative targeting of food subsidies in Egypt could improve the welfare of the poor more efficiently than the present system.

Drawing on the results of a survey of 800 Egyptian wheat farmers, this chapter analyzes the patterns of wheat production and marketing (after the reforms of 1987), government procurement of domestic wheat, and the price responsiveness of wheat supply and input demand. The results indicate that most of the wheat produced is consumed in rural areas, which explains why only a small portion of national production is available for purchase by the government. Given observed price responsiveness, the study finds that achieving the goal of self-sufficiency through price policy would be costly and ill-advised.

Egyptian farmers responded to migration-induced labor shortages in the 1970s and 1980s by mechanizing many agricultural operations. Tractor subsidies encouraged this process. After the mid-1980s, wages and employment fell steadily and remained low throughout the 1990s, but agriculture remained mechanized. This paper traces the process by which economic policies and technical indivisibilities locked Egypt into tractor-based mechanization even though economic analysis suggested that smaller scale machines were more profitable to farmers and generated more employment. A linear programming model is used to analyze both the determinants and dynamic implications of tractor adoption.

In this paper, a recursive-dynamic CGE model is used to analyze forces that drive food self-sufficiency in Tunisia up to 2019, including domestic policies. We explore the impact of two policies, agricultural liberalization and increased government spending to raise yields, as well as the role of increased urbanization. Our results indicate the presence of trade-offs between the government goals of food self-sufficiency and improved welfare for both rural and urban households. The results for a scenario that combines liberalization, increased government spending on agriculture, and accelerated urbanization shows a stronger performance in terms of both self-sufficiency and welfare objectives.

This paper reviews Tunisia's movement to an agricultural export strategy as a method of creating rural economic growth. Having explained the economic logic and pitfalls of agro-export production, it then evaluates the Tunisian effort to develop an agricultural export industry first in general and then using a specific case study of strawberry adoption in Cap Bon. Results show that Tunisia has been successful in increasing agro-export production, though as yet not in using it to create equitable rural growth.

Since 1985, Morocco's government has reformed the country's agriculture especially with respect to domestic agricultural markets. Drawing on available sources and our experience, we argue three related points. First, the impacts of reforms undertaken have, by and large, been positive. This reflects much more the dismal state of agricultural policy in 1985 rather than a positive rating of the reform process or the current policy environment. Second, further reforms, especially with respect to trade policy, are desirable. Third, future reforms involve important policy tradeoffs, especially with respect to price stability for strategic agricultural commodities (bread wheat, sugar and oilseeds).

Yemen has a rich agricultural heritage that goes back over a thousand years. Climate and population changes, foreign intervention, civil wars, export markets, exchange rates and policy experiments have all played significant roles in the ebb and flow of Yemeni agriculture. The character of Yemeni agriculture also varies considerably from region to region largely according to differences in the quantity and timing of rainfall and altitude. This paper takes advantage of this unusually rich and varied experience to draw policy lessons and assess future prospects.

This paper investigates the effects of the post-1980 structural reforms in Turkey on the strength of inter-industry linkages between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, and discusses the implications of the changing strength of these linkages for water consumption by the Turkish economy as a whole. For this purpose, we first solve demand- and supply-side input-output models under alternative scenarios concerning the nature of linkages between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors in 1979 and 1990. We then calculate the direct and indirect water requirements of production in 32 sectors and estimate the amount of water embodied in agricultural and manufacturing exports of Turkey.

Urban agriculture has generated significant interest in the development literature as a way of enhancing the food security and sustainability of urban populations. However, its importance and benefits vary across place and time. Using field data, this paper considers urban agriculture in Istanbul, Turkey, placing it within a wider array of food security practices and opportunities, and in the context of urban-rural relationships. Findings show that resource scarcity limits the viability of urban agriculture. Instead, lower income migrants to Istanbul from the Turkish hinterland rely on food from their home regions in the countryside to support their households.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Middle East Economics
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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