Near East and North Africa – Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2022
29 March 2023
Trade as an enabler for food security and nutrition
This year’s report presents evidence that Arab States face significant challenges in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 targets related to hunger, food security, and nutrition, as undernourishment, moderate or severe food insecurity, and malnourishment are increasing. Child wasting and overweight are higher, and adult obesity is double the global average. LDCs and conflict-affected countries suffer from even more severe hunger and malnutrition, including child stunting, wasting, and women’s anaemia. The report also provides the first assessment of the cost and affordability of a healthy diet since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shows a growing trend in the price of nutritious diets in recent years and that more than half the Arab population cannot afford a healthy diet. The Ukraine crisis, which has triggered food shortages and increased food price inflation, further adds to the burden on the region.
This year, the report focuses on how trade can enable regional food security and nutrition. Arab countries rely significantly on imports for the essential food items necessary for diverse and healthy diets that they cannot locally produce in sufficient quantities due to limited natural resource endowments. It discusses the role of trade and trade facilitation as essential enablers of all four dimensions of food security and nutrition. It also underlines how tariffs and non-tariff measures influence the economic access to food in the area.
On the other hand, countries that depend on trade may become more exposed to outside shocks, as the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis have highlighted. The report assesses Arab countries’ vulnerabilities, such as import dependency and lack of supplier diversification. To reduce the exposure to such external shocks, international trade must be carefully managed, sources of imports should be diversified, and international trade relations must be expanded to include new partners and markets. The report concludes with further policy recommendations that aim for the better integration of trade into food security and nutrition policies in the region.