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Israel must prepare for a possible shortage of staple foods in the next two decades and consider replacing current agricultural crops with wheat, say experts who will speak this week at the Agro Mashov 2011 agriculture exhibition.

The world food crisis will be the main focus; agriculture ministers from countries such as Israel, Brazil and Russia will take part in the event at the Tel Aviv Trade Fair and Convention Center.

There is currently enough food to feed the earth's population, but it is difficult to distribute it in an egalitarian way amid the rise in prices, says Prof. Haim Rabinovich of Hebrew University's Agriculture Faculty in Rehovot.

"Data from the UN World Food Program show that 700 children die every hour around the world from hunger or diseases related to food shortages," he says.

In the coming decades experts predict difficulties in the ability to produce food due to processes such as world population growth and climate change that will expand arid areas and reduce the available land for agriculture.

"This could lead to a situation in which a country like the United States will have to choose whether to provide wheat to hungry neighboring countries or to Israel, and it will probably prefer those close to it," Rabinovich says.

"So Israel must prepare to produce its own supply of grain crops like wheat .... Israel may have to give up crops like sunflower seeds and cotton in the Jezreel Valley in favor of wheat. It may have to decide to cut down on food exports in order to provide food for the large population of Jews and Palestinians living between the sea and the Jordan River in two decades."

Currently, Israel imports all its grain, Rabinovich says. In view of the climate crisis the Agriculture Ministry will have to consider moves such as genetic research to develop wheat that is more resistant to dry conditions, he says.