November 23, 2021
* This report examines the rapid growth of agribusinesses and corporate food systems in the Arab region since the 1980s, especially the underlying political and economic factors. Egypt, Morocco, and Lebanon are used as case studies.* The following characteristics are highlighted and explained: 1) The critical function of capital and investment funds that come from three main sources - Gulf region; Western multinationals; local companies. 2) Agribusinesses in the region must be understood as a system, relying on personal relationships and informal ties among the region's elites, organized as joint ventures and partnerships, with large companies monopolizing market shares, and exerting considerable power over consumers and smaller suppliers/producers. 3) The centrality of political connections and government support in the agribusinesses' smooth operation.* Companies discussed include: Savola, Al Marai, Danone, Nestle, Juhayna.* Understanding the roots and key features of these corporate industrial food systems is very important because of implications for policy discussions and for actions to address concerns. For example: How does government support for free market rather than smallholder farmers affect food sovereignty? How best to address avian flu outbreaks in Egypt that usually leave large intensive poultry agribusinesses in stronger positions? Instead of focusing activist actions on Gulf and local companies which are less likely to be swayed by publicity, it is more effective to lobby multinational companies headquartered in Europe and the U.S. that have entered markets in the Arab region.