Cultivating wheat is important for Jordan — experts

Wheat farmers farmer
Jordanian farmer cultivates wheat. (File Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Jordan is in the process of establishing a regional observatory for food security, and a center specialized in relief operations and emergency food aid in the region, Minister of Agriculture Khaled Al-Hneifat said.اضافة اعلان

“There will also be cooperation between several countries regarding the increase of trade exchange and the flow of agricultural commodities,” he said, stressing that the regional observatory is an institution affiliated with the UN Food and  Agriculture Organization “that conducts a predictive study of issues related to food security in the region”.

The minister spoke following the conclusion of a two-day quadripartite meeting this week of Jordanian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese ministers of agriculture, which explored strengthening cooperation in the field of agriculture, facilitating the flow of agricultural goods, finding possible solutions to food crises, and enhancing working with international organizations to support and develop agricultural production.

Hneifat said that the observatory “will monitor local and regional challenges, and in addition, there will also be a training center for this observatory in Asia, in order to provide effective solutions to food security”.

The quadripartite meeting dealt with the possibility of raising the level of food security for these countries through food integration and unified measures to face the challenges of the constant water shortage, the spread of epidemics and the threat of desert locusts, in addition to encouraging investment and trade exchange.

But despite the proposed radical solutions that the Ministry of Agriculture is seeking to implement in cooperation with various parties, farmers face serious challenges, foremost is the heavy dependence on imported strategic materials, including wheat, and the scarcity of water resources.

President of the General Union of Jordanian Farmers Odeh Al-Rawashdah told Jordan News that another quadripartite meeting will be held in Syria. But he stressed that there should have been an invitation for all Arab agriculture ministers to discuss the obstacles the sector faces.

Head of Traders and Producers of Agricultural Materials Syndicate Mohammad Loay Bibars told Jordan News that “these four countries have common historical and geographic denominators as they face the food security crisis.”

He stressed that before the Syrian crisis, Jordan had doubled its exports due to the ease of passage of goods across the border.
Will monitor local and regional challenges, and in addition, there will also be a training center for this observatory in Asia, in order to provide effective solutions to food security
He said that achieving food security is a major challenge for the entire region, “which means that an abundance of strategic crops needs large agricultural areas and large quantities of water”.

He reiterated that “we cannot talk about food security without achieving water security.”

“Before the Syrian crisis, Jordan used to import grain and get good quantities of water from the Syrian side, and there was ease in the flow of goods on the borders,” he said.

He also suggested that the region “go to hydroponics”, and gain experience, “since we lack knowledge in this field”, because using it for growing crops necessitates little water and “reduces the use of large agricultural areas”.

He urged the government to take serious measures to encourage wheat cultivation with a view to achieving self-sufficiency in this strategic crop.

Head of the Jordan Farmers Association Ibrahim Al-Sharif said that “we welcome any step toward solving the problems of the agricultural sector, especially since we rely on marketing with neighboring countries, and the agricultural exchange may contribute to increasing productivity.”

He told Jordan News that Jordan should produce much more wheat than it is producing now, adding that “we must import good types of wheat, and work to provide reasonable amounts of irrigation water”.

He noted that farmers are aware of the need to move from growing vegetables to cultivating strategic crops, but they “do not receive sufficient support from the government” for such a switch.
Due to the fragmentation of ownership and to the decline in the quality of wheat seeds, which led to a decline in profits.
For instance, Jordanians produce huge quantities of tomatoes, of which large amounts are destroyed, he said, stressing the need for introducing food processing.

Wheat grower Salman Al-Oran told Jordan News that “the most prominent challenges farmers face are climate change and the lack of rainfall.”

He said that farmers refrain from growing wheat “due to the fragmentation of ownership and to the decline in the quality of wheat seeds, which led to a decline in profits.”

Director-General of the Jordan Farmers’ Union Mahmoud Al-Oran wondered why the water issue between Jordan and Syria was not discussed at the meeting.

He said that “wheat cultivation faced many problems in the last decade, most notably the lack of wheat seeds that suit the current agricultural environment and the water shortage.”

According to Oran, in Jordan there are about 3,000,000 dunums suitable for cultivation, depending on irrigation.

“If we plant one third of these areas with wheat, we can produce at least 700,000 tons of wheat annually, and this covers approximately 70 percent of our annual needs, which are equivalent to one million tonnes,” he explained.

Read more Features
Jordan News