“At least 12 countries in the Middle East and South Asia suffer absolute water scarcity with about two-thirds of freshwater supply in the Middle East already coming from outside the region. The scale of the problem could worsen”
– Olcay Unver, co-ordinator of a 2012 UN report that noted that Farmers will need 19 percent more water by 2050 to meet increasing demands for food.
Farming is the biggest cause of water stress in the Middle East, and in Iraq, Oman, Syria and Yemen, it accounts for more than 90 percent of usage, according to the report. The region already imports as much as half its grain consumption and climate change could cut agricultural productivity by a quarter by 2080.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has said food output must rise 70 percent by 2050 to feed a world population expected to grow to 9.3 billion from 7 billion now and as increasingly rich consumers in developing economies eat more meat. A quarter of world farmland is “highly degraded” by intensive agriculture that has depleted water resources, reduced soil quality or increased erosion, according to the agency.
Saudi Arabia is reducing grain production to reduce unsustainable use of groundwater and encouraging companies to lease tracts of land in Africa for growing, the report said. India is growing maize, sugarcane, lentils and rice in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique to feed its domestic market.