Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New report says Africa could grow a lot more wheat

There is enough land in Africa to grow more than enough food for all of its people, but what they grow in reality is far behind their potential. A new study released today focuses on wheat production in Africa. The study claims that Africa is only growing 10 to 25 percent of its potential.

This echos what OXFAM said last week about Africa, but their report focused on how the land is misused by land grabs or investment speculators. A good proportion of farm-able land in Africa sits empty while a foreign investor holds onto it. Some land that is being farmed is not human consumption of food but for cars instead with Ethanol.

The authors admit that wheat is not a tropical plant, but maintains that it can be grown in the high elevation areas of Rwanda, Burundi and others. From Reuters Alert Net, writer Alister Doyle tells us more about why wheat is important for Africa.

The report, examining environmental conditions of 12 nations from Ethiopia to Zimbabwe, said that farmers south of the Sahara grew only 44 percent of the wheat consumed locally, meaning dependence on international markets prone to price spikes.
"Sub-Saharan Africa has extensive areas of land that are suitable for profitably producing wheat under rain-fed conditions," according to the study by the non-profit International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.
It said countries in the region were producing only between 10 and 25 percent of the amounts that the Center's research suggested was "biologically possible and economically profitable" with a net return of $200 per hectare (2.5 acres).
The 89-page study, issued at a wheat conference in Ethiopia, said it aimed to identify ways to raise wheat production as "a hedge against food insecurity, political instability and price shocks."
"Wheat is not an African crop, it is not a tropical crop (but) many governments want to produce wheat locally instead of paying for imports," Hans-Joachim Braun, director of the Center's global wheat program, told Reuters by telephone.
The report estimated that African nations would spend about $12 billion to import 40 million tonnes of wheat in 2012, particularly for fast-growing cities. More wheat should not be grown at the expense of other more viable crops, Braun said.

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