Global Trade Analysis: Food Independence in the MENA Region (Part 4 of 5)

Global Trade Analysis: Food Independence in the MENA Region (4 of 5)

So far this series has covered the MENA region’s global import and export position, the dynamics between KSA and the UAE, and the region’s general dependence on fuel, which drives the need for diversification.

As part of their effort to diversify, MENA countries are seeking food and agriculture independence. The UAE and KSA are minor contributors to MENA’s food and agriculture export totals. Food and agriculture imports and exports make up a relatively small portion of total MENA numbers, but they are essential to the long-term stability of the region.

The following data indicate the current state of food imports and exports in the MENA region, the UAE, and KSA as well as key steps being taken to improve food production capability through technology.

The UAE and KSA Are Minor Players in MENA’s Total Food and Agriculture Exports and Imports

UAE, KSA, and MENA Agriculture and Food Imports and Exports from 2015-2018
  • The UAE and KSA export less food and agriculture products than the average MENA country.
  • Food and agriculture account for approximately 4.5% and 3.5% of MENA’s imports and exports respectively; these percentages are expected to grow over the next five years.
  • The UAE’s food and agriculture exports are growing; imports have remained stable.
  • KSA’s food and agriculture exports have remained stable; imports have slowly decreased.

KSA Imports More Agriculture and Food Products Than Other MENA Countries

UAE, KSA, and MENA Agriculture and Food Imports as a Percentage of Total Imports
  • KSA imports approximately 2% more food and agriculture products compared to other MENA countries.
  • The UAE imports 50% less food and agriculture than other MENA countries.
  • This stark contrast between the two countries highlights the UAE’s investment in food production capacity and technology.

The UAE and KSA Export Fewer Food and Agriculture Products Compared to Other MENA Countries as a Percentage of Total Exports

UAE, KSA, and MENA Agriculture and Food Exports as a Percentage of Total Exports
  • The UAE and KSA both export less food on average than other MENA countries as a percentage of total exports.
  • This is less significant than import disparities since food independence is a major economic driver, while food production and distribution are not.
  • KSA and the UAE are expected to continue producing less food and agriculture products than MENA countries in the near future.

The UAE’s Commitment to Food and Agriculture Leadership Is Evidenced in Its Tech Investments

As shown in the previous J&A series, tech investments are on the rise in the MENA region. The UAE has recently made 10 major food-tech investments as part of its continued commitment to food independence and leadership. These food-tech investments include smart farms, food delivery, curated menus, and more. Below are three examples of these investments from different categories.

KSA & Middle East Food-tech investments
In the final part of our series, we will investigate the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) role in global trade for the MENA region, as well as steps the council is taking to increase its cooperation and cumulative strength.

Source: IAGS | The World Bank | IMF GCC Banking | IMF GCC Markets | IMF Trade and Foreign Investment | Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 | UAE Ministry of Finance