Near East Population Growth Outpaces Farm Production, UN Says

Population growth in the Near East, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan, is outpacing gains in agricultural production, making the region more vulnerable to food-supply shocks, the United Nations said.

The region is becoming “ever more dependent” on food imports, and boosting investment in local farming is “vital,” the UN’s Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement on its website today.

Cereals yields in the Near East are about half of the world average, and the gap is widening, according to the FAO. The region’s cereal deficit is forecast to more than double by 2030 compared with 2000, the UN agency said.

“This growing food deficit makes the majority of Near Eastern countries more dependent on imports and, therefore, vulnerable to shocks in international and domestic markets,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said in the statement.

Food security in the Near East is also challenged by limited availability of water and land, FAO said.

The amount of renewable water per capita in the region is about 1,050 cubic meters (37,080 cubic feet) a year, compared with a global average of 8,900 cubic meters, and that is forecast to drop by half by 2030, the agency said.

The FAO defined the Near East as consisting of 30 countries, including Somalia, Yemen and Sudan. The number of hungry or undernourished people in the region is estimated at 37 million, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net.

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