Continuing the long series on Mediterranean issues that was begun, on his initiative, in this journal more than a year ago, Sébastien Abis turns here to the geopolitical dimension of a basic food resource – wheat – in the current Mediterranean context. His aim is to highlight the degree to which this cereal plays a crucial role in the geopolitical equation of the region, particularly through its social and economic impacts and the commercial dealings to which it gives rise.
Reminding us initially of the extent to which wheat is both a symbolic and a nutritionally indispensable product, he outlines the economic dynamics at work in North Africa and the Middle East in terms of the consumption, production and importation of this basic resource – particularly price increases and price volatility. Abis then shows the degree to which wheat has become a globalized, desirable product and how greatly the attention of the main producers (USA, EU, Black Sea countries) is focussed on the Mediterranean region, because of the high levels of consumption there. Lastly, after reminding us – particularly with reference to the Egyptian case – of the key role played by wheat in the social cohesion of the countries of the Mediterranean basin, Abis proposes three possible future scenarios, depending on the particular regional ambitions of the European Union: European withdrawal, leaving the countries of North Africa and the Middle East to find their supplies from the Black Sea countries; a fresh boost to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, putting the EU at the heart of the region’s wheat supplies; or, lastly, a revision of the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy involving a partnership with the Black Sea countries to achieve optimum complementarity in terms of wheat production, though this poses the risk of friction with Russia.