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Water Scarcity and Food Imports: An Emperical Investigation of the 'Virtual Water' Hypothesis in the MENA Region


  • Hakimian Hassan

    () (Cass Business School)


Despite the long tradition established by the Heckscher–Ohlin (H–O) theorem and copious literature on the so-called Leontief Paradox, economists have not methodically linked the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s well-known water-scarcity problem to its mounting food imports. This paper first reinterprets the factor endowments and comparative advantage theory in the MENA context, suggesting that the 'virtual water’ (VW) hypothesis, focusing on water embedded in commodities, is in line with the H–O model’s tenet that 'trade in commodities is an indirect way of trade in factors of production’. Second, findings using comparative cross-section regression analysis for 100 countries appear to vindicate the VW hypothesis that the import structures for water-deficit areas are dominated by large food/agricultural imports. The study ends with a discussion of the policy and political economy implications of the hypothesis in the light of our empirical findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Hakimian Hassan, 2003. "Water Scarcity and Food Imports: An Emperical Investigation of the 'Virtual Water' Hypothesis in the MENA Region," Review of Middle East Economics and Finance, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 70-84, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:rmeecf:v:1:y:2003:i:1:n:5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bowen, Harry P & Leamer, Edward E & Sveikauskas, Leo, 1987. "Multicountry, Multifactor Tests of the Factor Abundance Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 791-809, December.
    2. Wood, Adrian & Mayer, Jorg, 2001. "Africa's Export Structure in a Comparative Perspective," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(3), pages 369-394, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dik Roth & Jeroen Warner, 2008. "Virtual water: Virtuous impact? The unsteady state of virtual water," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 25(2), pages 257-270, June.
    2. repec:spr:endesu:v:19:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10668-016-9770-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Sayan Serdar, 2003. "H-O for H2O: Can the Heckscher-Ohlin Framework Explain the Role of Free Trade in Distributing Scarce Water Resources Around the Middle East?," Review of Middle East Economics and Finance, De Gruyter, vol. 1(3), pages 21-36, December.
    4. Gholamreza Soltani, 2013. "Agricultural Water-Use Efficiency in a Global Perspective: The Case of Iran," Working Papers 778, Economic Research Forum, revised Oct 2013.

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