Syria, Lebanon Seek Agricultural Unity To Preserve Arab Food Security

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News in brief: The Ministers of Agriculture from Syria and Lebanon met to discuss food security and the unification of border procedures to address food exchange issues. They propose a four-party meeting involving Iraq and Jordan.

Syria’s Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Eng. Muhammad Hassan Qatana, and Lebanon’s Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Abbas Hajj Hassan, met on Monday in Beirut to discuss food security as it affects Arab nations.

According to report coming out of Syria, the two government officials were on the same page regarding how to proceed. They want to unify their border procedures to solve foodstuffs exchange problems. Unifying their border procedures could including lifting customs duties on affected items.

However, they also need Iraq and Jordan to get on board with the plan. Qatana called for a four-party meeting between the ministers of agriculture in the four countries as well as transportation officials. The Syrian minister foresees transportation hurdles that may require expert solutions.

Hassan agreed with the quartet proposal and believes that the Syria-Lebanon meeting could be the start of wider collaborations between Arab countries at the agricultural level.

The Syria-Lebanon border has been historically sketchy and not precisely fixed. This problem has persisted for a long time, even after mediation from the United Nations Security Council. Also, civil wars in each country spills into the other and affects the border time and time again. Syria shares common borders with Iraq and Jordan, which makes the quartet meeting suggestion sensible.

State of food insecurity in Lebanon and Syria

The World Food Programme (WFP) said that 46% of people in Lebanon face food insecurity and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) blames this on lack of long-term planning and investment in sustainable agricultural practices.

Meanwhile, Syria is not doing any better as Relief Web (RW) claims that about 60% of the country’s population suffer from food insecurity because of its civil conflict. A European Commission report says that Syria ranks number six among countries with the highest food insecurity in the world.

Clearly, both countries are in dire need of a solution to solve its food problem. The meeting is a first step and Syria’s Qatana is pushing for a memorandum of understanding (MoU) as soon as the four countries meet to establish executive frameworks for trade exchanges.

Iraq fares a bit better than both countries, although it has a poverty rate of about 31.7%, only 6.15% of its population is in dire need of food and livelihood assistance. Jordan is also relatively food secure with about 15% households showing a poor or borderline Food Consumption Score (FCS).

So, it may take a bit more convincing to get the duo on board with the border unification plan.

Obinna Onwuasoanya
Obinna Onwuasoanya
Obinna Onwuasoanya is a tech reporter of over five years, fiction writer, SEO expert and an editor. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria, and was previously shortlisted for the Writivism Short Story Prize 2018.

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