Dr. Yasser Mohammed Al-Obaid
Sudan remains a pivotal and strategic country in the issue of ensuring Arab and global food security in light of the conditions that Sudan is going through from political, ante, and economic instability, as well as the plight of the world as a result of wars and conflicts, the latest of which is the Russian-Ukrainian war, which resulted in a severe food crisis around the world because of its great importance to human life Food security, is one of the main issues of concern to many countries of the world, including the Arab countries, because of their economic, social, life and exciting dimensions. It is important to shed light on Sudan’s role in addressing the food gap.
The Arab region abounds with a large amount of natural agricultural resources, which allow the possibility of increasing agricultural production and achieving better levels of food security if these resources are used well, and if an appropriate agricultural investment climate is provided, including appropriate mechanisms to provide the necessary financing for agricultural development and food security. Countries vary. The Arab world clearly in terms of the area occupied by agriculture in each of them, given the many factors, including geographical and environmental, the availability of natural resources and infrastructure, in addition to the agricultural policies adopted and the volume of investments in the agricultural sector.
The cultivated area in the Arab world during 2011 was estimated at 69 million hectares, constituting about 4.9 percent of the total area of the Arab world and about 1.4 percent of the total agricultural area in the world as a whole. For comparison, the ratio of agricultural land to the total land area at the global level reached about 11.8 percent in 2011. Concerning an average decrease in the per capita share of agricultural land at the level of the Arab world between 2010 and 2011 from about 0.17 hectares to 0.16 acres due to the increase in population and the stability of the area planted.
The irrigated agricultural areas in the Arab countries were estimated in 2011 at about 10.93 million hectares, representing 15.9 percent of the total cultivated areas in the Arab world. This percentage is less than at the global level, reaching about 17 percent. The area of natural pastures in the Arab countries was estimated at 494 million hectares, equivalent to about 35 percent of the land area of the Arab countries, compared to about 26 percent at the global level. As for forests, the Arab region lacks large areas of forests, as the area of forests in the Arab countries reached in 2011 (including South Sudan). ) about 95 million hectares, equivalent to about 6.8 percent of the Arab land area, while it reached about 32 percent at the global level.
Arab forests are concentrated in specific countries, where the highest percentage is in Sudan, estimated at 25.7 percent, followed by Somalia with about 14.2 percent, and Morocco with about 7.4 percent, and this percentage drops to less than 5 percent in the rest of the Arab countries.
Water resources in the Arab region are characterized by scarcity and low average unit area share and per capita share of water. The area of the Arab world is equivalent to 10.8 percent of the land area and its population equals 5 percent of the total world population, but it contains only 0.7 percent of the total running surface water. In the world, it also receives only 2.1 percent of the total land rain. The water resources available in the Arab world from all sources are estimated at 258 billion cubic meters per year.
The relative stability of the quantities of available water with the continuous increase in the population in the Arab world leads to a decline The per capita share of available water continues, as the average per capita share of flowing water in the Arab world is estimated at 628 cubic meters, while the average per capita share of flowing water in the world is estimated at 6,382 cubic meters. In addition to the importance of the Arab agricultural sector in providing food, This sector is one of the main economic sectors on which economic and social development is based in many Arab countries, in terms of contributing to the gross domestic product and providing job opportunities for the sector.
An important part of the population, in addition to its contribution to providing the raw materials needed for many industries. The possibilities of agricultural research vary between Arab countries, but in general, they do not match the importance of the agricultural sector in many Arab countries. This is due to the lack of necessary investments for infrastructure and building scientific and institutional capacities. Expenditure on agricultural research is generally considered weak in the Arab world.
The group of cereal crops (especially wheat, barley, corn, and rice) represents the largest weight in the Arab food basket and occupies more than half of the cultivated area in the Arab world. The oilseed group accounted for 10.6 percent, and the fruit group represented about 5.8 percent, followed by vegetables (3.8 percent), fodder (3.6 percent), legumes (1.8 percent), tubers (0.8 percent), and sugar crops (0.7 percent). percent), fiber (0.7 percent), and finally tobacco (0.1 percent).
Noting that the productivity of cereals and oilseeds crops is lower in the Arab world than their global counterparts, which calls for supporting ongoing efforts to improve their productivity rates in existing crops, and to provide the necessary funding for programs to expand their cultivation. In the Arab world, about 48 percent of the volume of grain production.
Also, the average Arab production of wheat was estimated at 25.3 million tons during the period 2008-2011, which is equivalent to about 3.9 percent of the volume of its global production. The average annual production of barley in the Arab world is estimated at 7.32 million tons during the same period, which is equivalent to about 5.9 percent of its global production volume. As for maize, its average production volume was modest and was estimated at 7.4 million tons during the mentioned period, equivalent to about 0.9 percent of its global production volume. Maize is only about 35 percent of its annual needs of it. The rice crop is one of the food grain crops of great importance and increasing in the diet pattern in the Arab countries.
The volume of livestock in the Arab world, including cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats, and camels, amounted to about 384 million heads. Livestock statistics indicate that the total number of them has increased, but they still do not meet the full needs of the population due to the low productivity of animal breeds, the use of traditional methods of production and breeding, and the lack of feed resources. and their fluctuations according to rainfall rates. In addition to the existence of obstacles related to policies and institutional systems.
Red meat production in 2011 amounted to about 4.93 million tons, white meat about 3.17 million tons, milk and its products about 26.15 million tons, and fish about 4.1 million tons. Exports amounted to about 810 million dollars in 2011. Many Arab countries have tended to develop the poultry industry to produce white meat to enhance self-sufficiency and reduce pressure on red meat consumption.
on the other side
Arab agriculture in general suffers from a large gap in the sectors of plant and animal production, where traditional methods of agriculture, grazing, and hunting prevail. In addition to this, another problem is represented in the decreasing proportion of the rural population in the Arab world to the total population since the mid-nineties due to the high rates of migration from the countryside to the city In most countries, the low volume of investments in the agricultural sector and the weakness of infrastructure, social services, and support services, especially agricultural financing and marketing services.
The issue of food security is one of the main issues that concern the Arab countries because of its economic, social, and political dimensions. Many Arab countries have begun to adopt plans and strategies to develop their agricultural productive sectors, whether those related to the development of the plant production sector or livestock. The food gap has been estimated The main commodity groups in the Arab world during the period 2009-2011 amounted to about $34.3 billion. The value of the gap in grain production is about $19.54 billion, meat is about 6 billion, and milk and its derivatives are 3 billion. And if agricultural development operations in Arab countries continue at their current rates in the future, it is expected The food gap will reach about $65 billion by 2030.
The cereals group alone contributes about 53 percent of the value of the deficit, while vegetable oils, dairy, and their products and sugar contribute about 13.5 percent, 8.2 percent, and 6.8 percent, respectively. That is, these commodities collectively contribute about 82 percent of the value of the food deficit in the Arab world. The statistics of the Arab Organization for Agriculture indicate that Arabs import 45 percent of their needs of grains from outside the Arab world, 67 percent of sugar, 31 percent of oilseeds, and 51 percent of milk.
The availability of food from foreign trade in the Arab countries has been affected as a result of the continued fluctuations and high prices of the main food in the global markets during the past few years, as food prices rose by 15% in 2011 according to the World Bank. The last six months of the few years witnessed increases in the international prices of wheat Corn, sugar, and edible oils, these increases contributed to raising the cost of many other foodstuffs. The Arab countries, which are mostly food importers, were affected by these conditions, so the total value of foreign trade increased from 58 billion dollars in 2009 to 66 billion dollars in 2010 (an increase of 12.7%. It also increased Between 2010 and 2011. Accordingly, the ratio of the value of Arab exports of the main food commodity groups to the total value of foreign trade amounted to about 23 percent in 2011 and the coverage of exports to imports was only about 30 percent. International statistics indicate a continuing trend Prices of most food commodities are going up.
The Arab region is the region most vulnerable to food price volatility, where climate variability, scarcity of irrigation water, and the absence of policies and programs play a role in exacerbating the situation in the Arab world. Noting that the Arab world is currently the largest net importer of cereals in the world, as it imports A quarter of what the countries of the world import as a whole. All of this indicates that food security and ways to enhance it are the main concern of the Arab countries and are at the top of the priorities.
4. Sudan’s agricultural and animal potential
The land of Sudan is indeed one of the richest lands in the Arab region and the world is fertile. It is also characterized by a strategic location in the African continent. Therefore, a lot of attention has been directed towards Sudan as a rich agricultural area in which agriculture can be grown at huge rates and can provide a lot of agricultural production that is sufficient to fill the food gap for the Arab region as a whole. Sudan possesses arable lands that enable it to play an important role in supporting Arab food security and contribute an abundant amount to the Arab food basket, as Sudan has 48 percent of the total agricultural land in the Arab world.
Nine countries. Sudan also has huge potential and natural resources and abundant water resources. All this in addition to livestock estimated at 103 million heads of cows, sheep, and goats. The agricultural area in Sudan is estimated at 84 million feddans, equivalent to 220 million feddans. Regularly, they are less than 10 million hectares. Also, Sudan has natural pastures estimated at 47 million hectares and forest resources at about 74 million hectares. Sudan is characterized by high rainfall rates varying between 50 mm in the north To 1500 mm in the south. Sudan’s water potential is divided into two parts: running water estimated at 28 billion cubic meters, and rainwater estimated at 400 billion cubic meters annually.
The territory of Sudan is divided as follows:
Desert lands: Its area is estimated at 668 thousand square kilometers. The rainfall rate is less than 100 mm annually, and the agricultural activity in it is limited to grazing herds of camels and goats, and irrigated agriculture is practiced in the areas adjacent to the Nile River.
Semi-desert lands: their area is about 289,000 square kilometers. The amount of rain varies between 100 and 225 mm per year, and grazing and cultivation of drought-resistant crops such as millet are practiced.
Coastal lands: They are located adjacent to the coastal strip on the Red Sea and are dominated by winter rains and are used for grazing livestock.
Al-Quoz lands: its total area is estimated at 240,000 square kilometers, and its economic activity includes animal grazing and rain-fed and mixed agriculture.
Central mudflats: their total area is about 119,500 square kilometers. It is characterized by its cracked clay soil and is considered one of the most important pillars of agricultural production in Sudan, where irrigated agriculture, rain-fed agriculture, and animal husbandry are practiced.
The southern mudflats: extend over an area estimated at 247,000 km, in which forests are spread and irrigated agriculture, rain-fed agriculture, and grazing are practiced.
The southeastern lands: estimated at 105 thousand square kilometers. Rain rates range between 600 and 1500 mm annually. Coffee, tea, fruits, and forests are cultivated in it and used for animal grazing.
Mountainous lands, including:
The lands of Jebel Marra, which is located at an altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level, and an estimated area of about 29,000 square kilometers. Rain rates range between 600 and 1,000 millimeters annually. Suitable for growing crops that are not suitable for cultivation in other regions of Sudan, as well as grazing and mechanized agriculture as well as forestry.
Nuba Mountains land an estimated area of 65 thousand square kilometers. Suitable for mechanized agricultural production and grazing.
The agricultural sector in Sudan, both plant and animal, represents the locomotive of the national economy, as it plays a pivotal role in the economic and social development in Sudan and contributes about 43 percent of the GDP. But at a time when Sudan is expected to be the third country in the world that provides food security next to Australia and Canada, It suffers from an acute shortage of food, especially food grains, and is among the largest importers of wheat (about 2.2 million tons annually).
Sudan is qualified to be an incubator for Arab agricultural investment, and it is suitable for the production of basic food commodities such as grains, sugar, oilseeds, meat, and dairy. Sudan is a basket for Arab and international food. Arab investors began to head toward Sudan in search of agricultural investment opportunities
And to achieve Arab food security. This was accompanied by great facilities provided by the Sudanese government for the export and marketing of products and agriculture and made unremitting efforts to attract Arab investments in the agricultural sector. Thus, many agricultural projects began working in Sudan, including Jordanian, Emirati, Libyan, Egyptian, and Saudi investments to reclaim and cultivate lands with various basic crops, especially Wheat, corn, and animal feed.
Concerning the investment environment in Sudan, during the past ten years, the state has developed infrastructure and services and directed part of the oil resources to the infrastructure of roads, dams, and reservoirs. It has also developed laws and policies as follows:
Reducing the role of the state in economic work and productive activity, and allowing the private sector. Foreign trade was liberalized, exports were encouraged, state and local taxes on agricultural products were abolished, the tax on public shareholding companies was reduced, and tax amendments were introduced to encourage the movement of capital.
Implementing a new tariff for capital goods benefiting from exemptions, reducing fees on some foodstuffs, and canceling fees on computers and their accessories.
Abolishing restrictions on foreign exchange transactions, liberating price systems from administrative control, adopting policies to release the forces of investment and production, and supporting economic liberalization policies. In addition to floating the national currency so that its realistic price is established by the influence of market mechanisms in a free and organized market governed by incentives for production and consumption and freedom of transactions. The banking system plays the role of a corrector. to market imbalances.
Abolishing the currency declaration system upon entering the country, facilitating visa procedures for foreigners and businessmen, facilitating the registration procedures for foreigners, in addition to facilitating the entry of foreign skilled workers, and ensuring the freedom to transfer funds abroad.
Granting strategic projects exemptions from business profit tax for no less than ten years. Also, granting non-strategic projects an exemption from tax for a period not exceeding five years, and a similar period may be granted. In addition to granting the investment project full customs exemptions on all its needs of capital equipment and production inputs. The strategic project is granted the necessary land for free and at an encouraging price for the non-strategic project. The law also prohibits discrimination between invested money (local, Arab or foreign, or being a public, cooperative or mixed sector). The law also prohibits imposing any taxes or state fees on projects. Federal, during the tax exemption period granted to the project.
Ensure that the profits and financing costs are transferred from the foreign capital in the currency in which the capital was imported on the due date. Not to nationalize or confiscate the project or to expropriate the project’s real estate in whole or in part for the public benefit except by law and in return for fair compensation.
Sudan also enjoys many incentives for investment, including:
Diversity of investment opportunities in different sectors of the economy such as agriculture, industry, energy, mining, transportation, and other economic services.
Ease of investment procedures and granting facilities, as a specialized ministry for investment affairs, was established and the single window policy was adopted to facilitate procedures and for the investor to obtain a license and benefits in the shortest time.
Availability of qualified and trained human resources and cheap labor in all areas of multiple productions and different sectors.
The existence of well-established financial and banking institutions specialized in the fields of investment, as well as professional and informal institutions working in the economic field, such as the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and others.
Adopting economic and financial policies that encourage investment and enacting legislation that constitutes a strong basis for the establishment and protection of foreign investments.
On the other hand, Sudan suffers from weak infrastructure in general, and a severe shortage of roads in particular. Undoubtedly, these agricultural roads are extremely important because they are the economic arteries for the implementation of the agricultural development plan in Sudan. Despite the nature of Sudan, which is rich in fertile agricultural land, farmers face difficulties Many are due to the absence of agricultural roads. Bad roads cost additional financial burdens and losses represented in the lack of production inputs, financing, and labor in the season of planting and harvesting. The absence of a network of agricultural roads poses a challenge to the exploitation and reclamation of more lands eligible for agriculture.
Despite all the measures mentioned above in the field of improving the climate attractive to investment, we believe that Sudan needs more other important and supportive measures for the investment climate in it. We mention, for example, political, security, social and economic stability, and the improvement and development of infrastructure in general, especially roads and transportation, including This includes rehabilitating the railways, electricity, storage, and refrigeration. In this context, we should not forget the stability of laws (especially those related to investment) and the independence of the judiciary, as these two matters give confidence to investors.
5. A proposal to establish an Arab fund or financial institution
To develop Arab agricultural investment in Sudan
The exploitation of Sudan’s vast agricultural resources in securing Arab food security requires the availability of several mechanisms and procedures, the foremost of which is the improvement and strengthening of the investment climate as indicated above, in addition to the availability of a crucial element, which is the availability of money for investment. To achieve Arab agricultural self-sufficiency must Secure a sustainable Arab funding source that contributes to providing safe food to the Arab peoples and building more stable agricultural societies.
To achieve this and to provide financial resources, the Union of Arab Banks proposes to assign the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (based in Sudan) to supervise and finance the study of the following two proposals:
Establishing an Arab fund or financial institution for agricultural development in Sudan, provided that the following bodies and institutions are invited to participate in the financing process: Arab governments, Arab sovereign funds, Arab investment funds, Arab Organization for Agricultural Development, Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development, Islamic Development Bank, and major Arab banks.
Supporting the financial resources of the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development and the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development, to enable them to work on developing and supporting agricultural investment in Sudan, because they have experience and extensive knowledge of the conditions and capabilities of agricultural investment in Sudan, as well as technical expertise in agricultural investment.