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The Mediterranean region under climate change

 | 
Jean-Paul Moatti
, 
Stéphane Thiébault

Part 3. Adaptation, resilience, conservation of resources and prevention of risk

Sub-chapter 3.2.7. Climate change and dependence on agricultural imports in the MENA region

Chantal Le Mouël, Agneta Forslund, Pauline Marty, Stéphane Manceron et Bertrand Schmitt

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Introduction

1The Middle East–North Africa (MENA) region, which is geopolitically complex and highly strategic, is characterized by a high level of dependence on agricultural imports, which currently account for 40% of its food needs. Over the last five decades, demographic growth and changes in dietary habits have led to a marked increase in food requirements. Although regional agricultural production has increased substantially over the same period, it has been unable to keep pace with the increase in demand, partly because of the soil and climate constraints and also because of limitations in terms of agricultural policy. Regional dependence on agricultural imports is likely to continue to escalate in the foreseeable future, as a result of ongoing demographic expansion and changes in eating habits, as well as of climate change impacts in a region recognized as a climate “hot spot”. Agricultural imports place a significant burden on state budgets, and agri-food policies in the region continue to struggle with urban and rural poverty. In this context, it is important to understand which factors within the regional agri-food system are most likely to contribute to – or, on the contrary, might help mitigate – a continued increase in agricultural import dependence. In this study, we analyse two scenarios for the region through 2050, taking into account the anticipated effects of climate change. These scenarios were simulated using a biomass balance model. Simulation results suggest that dependence on agricultural imports is likely to continue to increase in the region, with climate change as a major contributing factor.

Agricultural imports cover 40% of regional food requirements and are increasing rapidly

  • 1 This study was conducted by the INRA (i.e. French National Institute for Agricultural Research) wi (...)

2The MENA region is notable both for its high percentage of arid and semi-arid lands, characterized by low agricultural productivity, and for its rapid demographic expansion, with a population that has increased by a factor of 3.5 in fifty years – from 139 million inhabitants in 1961 to 496 million in 2011. A key challenge for the region lies in its ability to meet its food needs. It is to highlight this situation that we have undertaken a study on the agro-food system of the MENA region through 2050 (INRA, 2015; Le Mouël et al. 2015).1

3While demand for agricultural products increased sixfold from 1961 to 2011 in the MENA region, as a result of population growth combined with a pronounced nutritional transition, the domestic supply rose only fourfold, partly due to the region’s severely limited land and water resources.

4As gains in agricultural production have failed to keep pace with rising food requirements, the imbalance has been made up by increased reliance on international markets to meet domestic requirements in food and feed: net dependence on agricultural imports has increased from 10% to 40% in fifty years, with significant variation among sub-regions (Fig. 1). Between the beginning of the 1960s and the end of the 2000s, the Maghreb and the Middle East saw their dependence on agricultural imports increase from 10 to 54% and from 15 to 50% respectively. In the Near East, where this dependence already stood at 40% at the beginning of the period, a similar level of around 50% was reached by the end of the 2000s. Egypt shows lower levels of agricultural import dependence, but nevertheless rose from 10 to 30%. Turkey is the exception within the region, with a historically low agricultural import dependence that has reached 10% only in the past few years.

Figure 1
The MENA region and its sub-regions. 2011 data; “pop”= population; “food dependency” = dependence on imports (% of net imports in total domestic consumption, expressed in kilocalories).

Figure 2
Agri-food net import dependence of the MENA region and its sub-regions in 1961, 2008 and in 2050 for the scenarios “Current trends (in population growth, dietary habits and agricultural production), without climate change” and “Current trends with increased climate change” (% of net imports in total domestic consumption, expressed in kilocalories).

Box 1
The GlobAgri-Pluriagri model
GlobAgri is a database and quantitative modelling tool developed by both INRA and CIRAD to analyze the use and availability of agricultural resources at global and regional levels. Using the FAOStat database and various sources of complementary data, GlobAgri-Pluriagri divides the MENA region into five sub-regions (Fig. 1) and the rest of the world into 12 regions. For each of these regions, the model establishes a biomass balance for 36 agricultural products in which, for each product, domestic production plus net imports (imports minus exports) equals the sum of uses for human consumption, animal consumption, and other uses, plus losses (mainly associated with processing phases) and stock variations. As the model does not include economic variables and production and consumption do not adjust according to the economic behavior of producers and consumers, consumption levels are determined in advance by the modeller, along with certain production factors such as crop and livestock yields. Adjustments determine the levels of imports, exports, and domestic production necessary to achieve equilibrium between resource availability and resource use. To this end, two constraints are introduced: the first ensures that, at the global level, the sum of imports equals the sum of exports for each product; the second imposes a maximum cultivable land area for each region. When the limit on cultivable land area is reached, equilibrium is achieved by reducing exports (i.e. the world market shares of the region) and/or increasing imports (i.e. the coefficients of import dependence). In the case of the MENA region, the model does not adjust exported quantities, because of the specificity of the production types involved (mainly fruits and vegetables).

Under current trends the agricultural import dependence of the MENA region will continue to rise through 2050

5We used the GlobAgri-Pluriagri model (see box 1) to simulate the effects of projecting current trends of the various components of the MENA agri-food system through the year 2050 (“Current trends without climate change” scenario) on the regional agricultural import dependence.

6In the MENA region as a whole, improved yields up to 2050 in the crop and livestock sectors would not be sufficient to compensate for rising food needs. Because of the constrained cultivable area, the imbalance between domestic supply and demand would be made up by increased agricultural imports, resulting in rising regional import dependence, from 40% in the initial (2008) situation to 45% in 2050.

7This regional average masks contrasting situations depending on the sub-region. Egypt, the Middle East and the Near East would experience a substantial increase in their import dependence, from 30 to 53%, from 51 to 62% and from 51 to 63% respectively. In the Maghreb and Turkey, domestic agricultural production would expand faster than domestic demand, enabling both sub-regions to reduce their import dependence level between 2008 and 2050 (Fig. 2). In the Maghreb, import dependence would decrease from 54 to 46%, while Turkey could even become a net exporter of agri-food products, with import dependence shifting from 11 to-10%.

Climate change will contribute to increase agricultural import dependence in the MENA region, especially in the Maghreb

8The Fifth Report of the IPCC states with growing confidence that both the magnitude and the impacts of climate change are likely to become more severe in the coming decades (IPCC, 2013). The scientific literature agrees, moreover, that the MENA region will potentially be one of the most heavily affected regions, in particular its Maghreb sub-region (IPCC, 2013; Hare et al. 2011, Niang et al. 2014).

9To address these potentialities, we considered the most extreme case projected by the IPCC, corresponding to a radiative forcing of 8.5 W/m² (RCP-8.5). This assumption corresponds to the probable outcome if international agreements and mitigation policies used for addressing climate change are unable to slow the global processes currently underway. According to the available literature (Müller and Robertson, 2014; Zabel et al. 2014), we adjusted the hypotheses on crop yield growth and on maximum cultivable areas relative to the “Current trends without climate change” scenario. In the resulting “Current trends with increased climate change” scenario, crop yields in 2050 are between 10 and 20% lower than in the previous scenario.

10Regarding cultivable land, the Maghreb would be the most affected sub-region, losing close to half of its cultivable land area between now and 2050. The Near East would also be strongly impacted, losing a quarter of currently cultivated area. Cultivable land area would remain unchanged in the Middle East. Given its distinct geography (a more northern position, mountainous areas, more favourable hydrography), Turkey could experience a significant increase in cultivable land area, amounting to 15% of currently cultivated land.

11As we assume continued availability of water for irrigation, yields and cropping areas remain unchanged for irrigated agriculture. As a result, our “Current trends with increased CC” scenario leaves Egypt unaffected relative to the previous scenario (Fig. 2).

12The severe deterioration of the conditions of agricultural production in the Maghreb would result in a sharp increase in its dependence on agri-food imports, increasing to 68% of domestic consumption by the year 2050 (Fig. 2). The increased dependence on agricultural imports in the Middle East and Near East sub-regions would also be aggravated, with import dependence now reaching 64 and 67%, respectively.

13Within this rather bleak overall picture, Turkey once again appears to be the exception, with the beneficial impacts of climate change in terms of cultivable land area compensating for the negative impacts in terms of yields. This country could slightly strengthen its position as a net exporter of agri-food products in the “Current trends with increased CC” scenario, relative to the previous one.

Conclusion

14Current trends in population growth, dietary habits and agricultural production would lead to a continued rise in agricultural imports in the MENA region through 2050. Increases in agricultural import dependence would be more pronounced as the impacts of climate change are felt in the region. The three sub-regions of the Maghreb, the Middle East and the Near East would be most strongly affected, with net imports reaching up to almost 70% of domestic requirements.

15The economic, social and political risks of reaching such elevated levels of agricultural import dependence are well known: trade imbalances, increased national public debts, strong exposure to global market fluctuations, recurrent food crises, increasing poverty, etc. Slowing this rise in agricultural import dependence is thus imperative.

  • 2 All these alternative options are investigated in the study conducted by Inra with the support of (...)

16There are several ways of reducing the burden of import dependence in the MENA region, such as stimulating agricultural production through technical progress that would improve both crop and animal yields; or regulating food demand by changing food diets; or reducing food waste and losses along the food supply chain2. Nevertheless, given that regional agricultural import dependence will become more pronounced as the impacts of climate change become more severe, the most effective means of limiting import dependence is to take steps to mitigate climate change, which only international agreements and the adoption of vigorous global climate policies would make possible.

Bibliographie

References

Hare W.L., Cramer W., Schaeffer M., Battaglini A., Jaeger C.C. (2011)
Climate hotspots: key vulnerable regions, climate change and limits to warming. Regional Environmental Change, 11(Suppl 1): S159-S166.

INRA (2015)
Addressing Agricultural Import Dependance in the Middle East-North Africa Region through the year 2050. Executive summary of the study supported by Pluriagri, 8 pp.

IPCC (2013)
Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.

Le Mouël C., Forslund A., Marty P., Manceron S., Marajo-Petitzon E., Caillaud M.-A., Schmitt B. (2015)
Le système agricole et alimentaire de la région Afrique du Nord–Moyen-Orient à l’horizon 2050: Projections de tendance et analyse de sensibilité. Final study report for Pluriagri. Paris and Rennes: INRA-DEPE & INRA-SAE2, 138 pp.

Müller C., Robertson R.D. (2014)
Projecting future crop productivity for global economic modeling. Agricultural Economics, 45: 37-50.

Niang I., Ruppel O.C., Abdrado M.A., Essel A., Lennard C., Padgham J., Urquhart P. (2014)
2014 Africa. In Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Barros V.R., Field C.B., Dokken D.J., Mastrandea M.D., Mach K.J., Bilir T.E., Chatterjee M., Ebi K.L., Estrada Y.O., Genova R.C., Girma B., Kissel E.S., Levy A.N., MacCracken S., Mastrandea P.R., White L.L. (eds)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1199-1265.

Zabel F., Putzenlechner B., Mauser W. (2014)
Global Agricultural Land Resources: A high resolution suitability evaluation and its perspectives until 2100 under climate change conditions. Plos One, 9 (9): e107522.

Notes

1 This study was conducted by the INRA (i.e. French National Institute for Agricultural Research) with the support of Pluriagri, an association of representatives of some commodity sectors (including Avril, the French Confederation of Sugar Beet Producers, and Unigrains) together with Crédit Agricole S.A., supporting foresight studies of agricultural markets and policies. Scientific coordination was provided by Chantal Le Mouël and Bertrand Schmitt (INRA). A working group including both scientific experts and stakeholders was given the task of building the scenarios and discussing the results: S. Abis (CIHEAM), C. Ansart (Unigrains), P. Blanc (Bordeaux Sciences-Agro and Sciences Po Bordeaux), X. Cassedanne (Crédit Agricole), R. Cuni (CGB), J.-C. Debar (Pluriagri), P. Dusser (Avril), H. Guyomard (INRA), F. Jacquet (INRA), Y. Le Bissonnais (INRA), M. Padilla (CIHEAM-IAMM), M. Petit (FARM), P. Raye (CGB France) and G. Regnard (Crédit Agricole).

2 All these alternative options are investigated in the study conducted by Inra with the support of Pluriagri, which considers a set of additional scenarios (such as “Technical progress”, “Mediterranean diet”, “Reduced waste and loss”, for instance), not presented here due to space constraint. All these scenarios and their results are available in INRA (2015) and Le Mouël et al. (2015).

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1The MENA region and its sub-regions. 2011 data; “pop”= population; “food dependency” = dependence on imports (% of net imports in total domestic consumption, expressed in kilocalories).
URL http://books.openedition.org/irdeditions/docannexe/image/23862/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 224k
Légende Figure 2Agri-food net import dependence of the MENA region and its sub-regions in 1961, 2008 and in 2050 for the scenarios “Current trends (in population growth, dietary habits and agricultural production), without climate change” and “Current trends with increased climate change” (% of net imports in total domestic consumption, expressed in kilocalories).
URL http://books.openedition.org/irdeditions/docannexe/image/23862/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 90k

Auteurs

INRA, France
Economist, INRA, UMR 1302 SMART, Rennes, France
chantal.le-mouel@inra.fr

INRA, France
Economist, INRA, UAR 519 SAE2, Rennes, France
agneta.forslund@inra.fr

INRA, France
Geographer, INRA, DEPE, Paris, France

INRA, France
Agronomist, INRA, DEPE, Paris, France

© IRD Éditions, 2016

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