June 2008 — MENA countries are being affected by the global food crisis because they are large net food importers and have to rely on imports to meet about 50% of their food needs.
Net food imports account for about 5-10 percent of total imports in most MENA countries, with wheat being the Middle East's most popular foodstuff.
Gulf countries are importing 100% of their staple foods, but have the cushion of oil revenues. In Yemen, by contrast 80% of cereals are imported under a very difficult financial situation.
In most countries the price increases impose a heavy fiscal burden on governments, apart from creating social and political unrest.
Food price increases are likely to increase poverty in the short run. The poor in urban areas, the rural landless and small and marginal farmers stand to lose.
In Yemen, prices for wheat and wheat products doubled in one year, and they might have already increased national poverty by 6 percentage points. If no action is taken, this could fully reverse the gains in poverty reduction between 1998 and 2005.
Issued on July 2, 2008 to coincide with the G-8 Summit in Japan the Bank's "Double Jeopardy: Responding to High Food and Fuel Prices" engages on the issue of rising food and energy prices.