World Grain - August 2018 - 32
Sub-Saharan Africa has lots of arable land, but technical,
economic challenges hinder crop output
ub-Saharan Africa has a big population, and it has
a lot of land. However, the technical and economic challenges that farmers face in the region mean
that it is dependent on grain imports to feed its population. Some sub-Saharan countries have managed to
become suppliers for their neighbors.
In the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2018-2027,
the two UN organizations highlight basic problems of
"Despite accounting for over 13% of the world population and close to 20% of global agricultural land, subSaharan Africa's share of global agricultural output is
relatively low," the OECD-FAO said. "Agricultural production is constrained by challenging agro-ecological
conditions, limited access to and utilization of technology, and the fact that economic growth in many cases
remains only marginally ahead of population increases."
The Outlook noted that sub-Saharan Africa's most
important agricultural commodity is "other coarse
grains," which includes millet, sorghum and teff. It accounts for 14% of world production of grains in the
category. It forecasts a 30% increase in crop production
in the next decade with growing maize (corn) output.
"Fertilizer, pesticides, improved seeds, and other
technologies such as mechanization and irrigation
have the potential to introduce substantial productivity
gains, as adoption is typically low among the smallscale production units that characterize the region," the
Although the region's food security will continue to
depend on imports, some African countries have become regional providers of certain products.
"Maize is one example, where Zambia consistently
produces an exportable surplus," the report noted.
"Similarly, yield improvements in teff production in
Ethiopia will allow the country to account for nearly
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The OECD-FAO pointed out that there are emerging challenges.
"The recent emergence of the Fall Armyworm, which
has affected 28 countries across the region, could have
serious implications for the region's expansion of maize,
rice, sorghum, sugarcane and soybean production and,
by extension, its food security," the report said.
According to the International Grains Council (IGC),
August 2018 / World Grain / www.World-Grain.com
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by Chris Lyddon