Africa can avoid food shortages – WB

2012-10-25 08:59

Washington - Africa could avoid food shortages if it reduces the tangled web of rules, fees and high costs strangling regional food trade and by putting large swathes of uncultivated land to productive use, a World Bank report said on Wednesday.

Just 5% of Africa's cereal imports are now provided by African farmers, according to the report released on the eve of an African Union summit on agriculture and trade in Ethiopia.

"Too often borders get in the way of getting food to homes and communities which are struggling with too little to eat," said Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice president for Africa.

The bank estimated that 19 million people are in danger of hunger and malnutrition in West Africa's Sahel region. Yet, removing cross-border restrictions could help avoid food crises if farmers were allowed to trade more easily with each other and get food to communities facing shortages.

In addition, the World Bank estimated that fewer restrictions on food trade could generate an estimated $20bn in annual earnings for African governments.

Food trade barriers also increase the cost to the consumer and the farmer, the World Bank said. For example, farmers on holdings in Africa who sell surplus harvest typically receive less than 20% of the consumer price of their produce, with the rest being eaten up by various transaction costs and post harvest losses.

"This clearly limits the incentive to produce for the market," the World Bank said.

Soaring global food prices in 2008, which triggered social unrest in several African countries, highlighted the problem of decades of underinvestment in agriculture in Africa. It also stimulated interest among investors in Europe, the Middle East and Asia in Africa's untapped farming potential. Fears of land grabbing also increased.

Transport cartels

The World Bank said high transport costs were an impediment to more food trade across Africa, especially for small farmers. While poor roads and lack of infrastructure are a problem in Africa, transport cartels are also common with little incentive for investment in modern trucks.

Countries in West Africa could halve their transport costs within 10 years if governments undertook policy reforms that spurred more competition, the World Bank said. Roadblocks and bribes at border posts also add to the cost of getting food to markets.

The World Bank report said yields for many crops in Africa are a fraction of what farmers are achieving elsewhere in the world. More food trade in Africa could help raise yields, spread new technology and create jobs, it added.

The Bank said rules and regulations are preventing African farmers from using higher yielding seeds and better fertilizers. In some countries it can take two to three years for new seed varieties to be released, even if they are being used elsewhere in Africa.

"The challenge is how to create a competitive environment in which governments embrace credible and stable policies that encourage private investors and businesses to boost food production across the region," said Paul Brenton, World Bank economist and main author of the report.

  • kenpeg.dawson - 2012-10-25 09:07

    It is so simple. Cull the population till a balance between food and people is reached. They have been culling the animals that was food to make place for the people that dont have food so instead of eating they breed and more space is needed so they cull some more animals and the cycle just repeats.

  • yrhonour.honour - 2012-10-25 09:11

    anything is possible but nothing will be done

  • vmeiring1 - 2012-10-25 09:19

    It's easy. See how costs escalated in South Africa? Farm murders.... Zimbabe did the same. Now, the very few farmers in South Africa must provide for South Africa and Zim. Short and sweet, thats the true facts

  • Sibusiso - 2012-10-25 10:06

    To those who gonna comment on this article. We already know that farm attacks is a problem we are facing. So please stop complaining about the problems that we know and be like the world bank and try to come up with unknown solutions that will help us move forward. Oh please stop your racial attacks, this article is about food security.

  • Buzzbar - 2012-10-25 10:34

    No it can't. Anything more than sunbsistence farming by Africans is not the "African Way". Not unless proper leadership and co-ordination can be brough in from Europe or the USA (Yes, read white Europeans and look at Zambia and Zimbabwe as examples where the white management was purged). Try as they may, Africa just doesn't produce enough managers. Education will not change this for at least 50 years

  • ludlowdj - 2012-10-25 11:25

    Africa as a continent has the ability to be not only a net exporter of food but also to be a net "energy exporter" in terms of green energy like solar. The problems preventing it go alot further than borders though. The basic problems are a primitive culture based on war be it tribal, religious or greed based. A total lack of anything that can be considered basic education, Tribalism that not only excludes non tribal members but encourages outright genocide of non tribal entities and the well known greed and corruption that makes Africa the legally protected criminal capital of the world.

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