Greater food security in the Mediterranean

The intensification of food insecurity has been the focus of numerous Mediterranean forecasting studies. In recent years, AMCs, which consume high levels of cereals, have seen the gap widen between their cereal production and their imports, which only deepens their deficits. Their structural dependence on imports is a geopolitical concern in a global context of increasing food confrontations. As a reminder, North African and Middle Eastern countries, with only 6% of the world’s population, receive an average 30% of global wheat imports each year. Added to the price effect linked to the high volatility of foodstuffs (including wheat), the impact on the trade balance is high, as well as on public finances through compensation policies. The effects of rising food prices cannot be ignored as a factor in popular discontent, which is the reason for compensation policies, which leave fewer resources to allocate to other social expenditure like education and health.

To tackle the major challenge of food security, it is vital that AMCs carry through national policies for agricultural and rural development. These involve investing in production, improving infrastructures to reduce waste and stimulate trade, supporting innovative practices to economize natural resources, and reinforcing different links in the agro-food industry chain to foster the integration of channels and business activities. These national policies should be backed by more determined regional approaches. Greater technical, territorial and commercial cooperation on agricultural, food and rural issues could be one of the principle axes of a Euro-Mediterranean project that now needs to be re-defined and prioritized in line with mutual North-South, and South-South, interests.

This means promoting greater regional cooperation, with more EU participation to disseminate crop and irrigation techniques, and optimized management of land and water resources. One solution to ensure regular supplies of strategic foodstuffs (especially cereals) could be to draw up mid-term EU-SEMC contracts guaranteeing volumes and price brackets.

Lastly, the Mediterranean will never be competitive when it comes to the quantity of its production. On the other hand, if synergies can be found, it could achieve competitiveness for the quality of its products. By acting as a joint movement, Mediterranean countries can extend the perimeter of their trade markets. The Mediterranean should put the focus back on its diet and products, since they clearly constitute the food and agricultural model that best suits countries in this region.