Middle East drought a threat to global food prices
He said the stress on water resources from prodigal usage was exacerbated by the presence of nearly a million registered refugees since the Syrian civil war began in 2011.
Only Israel will not face acute problems, helped by its long-term investment in desalination plants and pioneering water management techniques.
In Iraq and Syria, where most of the country is too arid for agriculture, civil conflict and lack of water storage facilities will add to the hardship of rural communities dependent on crop cultivation and livestock.
U.N.-based field studies show that over 30 percent of households in Iraq, Syria and to a lesser extent the Palestinian territories and Jordan, are connected with agriculture.
"Crop production is going down because of drought, and so in these agro-pastoral economies you are looking at many, many lives that are now affected," Hossain said.
In Iraq, which once boasted the largest tracts of fertile arable land in the region, it is only three years since the last major cycle of drought ended, which covered more than 73 percent of the country.
Extracts from a soon-to-be released U.N.-commissioned study says drought in Iraq will persist, increasing in severity from 2017 to 2026, increasing further the dependence on foreign food imports by one of the top grains importers in the world.
The U.N. study extracts say Turkey, where much of Iraq and Syria's water resources originate, has cut the volume of water flowing into the Euphrates and Tigris rivers by dam construction to meet their own growing domestic needs.
A poor rain season in Syria has already hit its 2014 wheat outlook in the main rain-fed areas in the north eastern parts of the country, which should be ready for harvest in June and July, Syrian agriculturalists say.
Experts say that even if late heavy rain comes in March, this will not save the rain-fed cereal harvest, which farmers are already resigned to relegating to animal fodder.
"When there is delay in rains, then the cereals will eventually wilt. Annual growth has not been achieved for the rain to come and continue maturity of the stalks," Asmar said.
Crop production in the conflict-torn country that once boasted bumper wheat seasons is expected to decline further.
Syria's wheat production is now pinned on the irrigated sown areas that depend on the Euphrates and underground water, which before 2011 accounted for no more than 40 percent of total annual production.
The drought and war could slash Syria's total wheat output to less than a third of its pre-crisis harvest of around 3.5 million tonnes to just over a million tonnes in 2014. Agricultural experts say the most favourable estimates for last year's harvest did not exceed 2 million tonnes.
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