* European, North African states seek more cooperation
* Food security concerns after 2011 Arab Spring revolts
By Hamid Ould Ahmed
ALGIERS, Nov 27 (Reuters) – European Union and North Africa countries agreed on Wednesday to work together to reduce the Maghreb region’s reliance on food imports and improve security of supplies, especially in cereals.
With scarce fertile land to feed a fast-growing population, the Middle East and North Africa is the largest food-importing region in the world.
Years of rising food prices helped fuel social tensions that burst in early 2011 as disgruntled populations rose up in rebellion against rulers from Tunisia to Yemen.
France, the EU’s top grain exporter, has a special interest in the region as a major supplier to Mediterranean countries. Algeria is its main wheat export market.
“We want to boost investment and raise output in importing countries,” French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said in Algiers. “This involves all foodstuffs including cereals, milk, meat, among others.”
Le Foll was speaking at a meeting of agriculture ministers from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, France, Spain, Malta, Portugal and Italy, to discuss agriculture and food security issues.
The ministers from the so-called 5+5 Euro-Med countries agreed to create a food security mission to examine production and supplies. The findings will contribute to a meeting in February to propose specific areas to develop.
The mission will encourage private-sector investment and look at legislation to ease investment terms. (Reporting By Hamid Ould Ahmed; editing by Patrick Markey and Tom Pfeiffer)