FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

The 2022 Near East and North Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition: Trade as an Enabler for Food Security and Nutrition examines the food security and nutrition situation in the Arab and Near East and North Africa region. It discusses how international trade can enhance food security and nutrition in a region that is experiencing an array of external shocks. The report provides recommendations on how the NENA region can improve agrifood systems to deliver food security and better nutrition for all, to be economically sustainable, to be inclusive, and to have a positive impact on climate and the environment.

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The 2022 Near East and North Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition provides an update on the progress made in the Arab States towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 targets related to hunger, food security and nutrition, as well as the progress made towards the 2025 global nutrition targets set by the World Health Assembly (WHA). It also discusses the important role of trade as an enabler for food security and nutrition in the region.

The first part of the report focuses on trends and statistics, while the second part examines how trade increases food security.

The data presented in this report show that the Arab States continue to face significant challenges in achieving both SDG target 2.1 – ensuring regular access to sufficient, safe and affordable healthy food for all people – and SDG target 2.2 – ending all forms of malnutrition.

Trade plays an important role in food security in the region. However, most of the countries have not mainstreamed trade into food security policies; thus, relevant policies must be redesigned accordingly. The potential for enhancing intra-regional trade is also an area that needs attention, especially considering the recent shocks in food supply chains.

If the region is to mitigate these challenges and to get back on track to meet food and nutrition targets, agrifood systems in the area must be transformed to make them more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable. Trade must be better integrated into food security policies in the region. FAO and other development partners are supporting member states in this endeavour.

This report is a joint publication the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP); the World Health Organization (WHO); the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

Key messages

In 2021, 54.3 million people were undernourished in the Arab region, which equals to 12.2% of the population. This is a 55% increase since 2010.



In 2021, an estimated 53.9 million people suffered from severe food insecurity in the Arab region. This is an increase of 5 million people from the previous year.



More than half the population in the Arab States, or 162.7 million people, could not afford a healthy diet in 2020.



High import dependency has made the region vulnerable to supply shocks and price inflation in international markets. The COVID 19 pandemic and the crisis in Ukraine have disrupted supply chains affecting prices of grain, fertilizer and energy.



To tackle food security challenges and increase resilience to global shocks, countries in the region have implemented a range of measures, such as supporting domestic agriculture, boosting food stocks and increasing subsidies to vulnerable people.



Trade is essential in ensuring all four dimensions of food security and nutrition: availability, access, utilization and stability.



Trade can increase the quantity and variety of food and decrease its price for net-food importing countries. It can also support Arab countries to overcome constraints in land and water endowments and meet their food requirements.



Arab countries must leverage intra regional trade and rely more on each other’s capacities. Regional trade helps reduce seasonal food scarcities during normal agricultural production cycles and provides an important mechanism to address production short



Trade and related policies to support the implementation of agricultural strategies and investment plans are essential to achieving food security and nutrition objectives.



Reducing food loss and waste increases the economic value of food trade as well as income opportunities, while reducing hunger, poverty, illnesses, and environmental impact.



Countries in the region need to work to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and increase the availability and affordability of healthy diets.



International trade enhances technology and knowledge spillovers that can increase productivity, improve employment opportunities and raise incomes.



New trade opportunities must be complemented with measures that contribute to women’s economic empowerment.