Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Research institute urges Africa to push for wheat self-sufficiency
By Kabanda Chulu in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tue 02 Apr. 2013, 14:00 CAT

AN agriculture research institute has warned that Africa will face more hunger, instability and political violence if the continent does not push for wheat self-sufficiency.

Making a presentation titled 'wheat: a strategic crop for Africa' at the 9th Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) representative Bekele Shiferaw stated that African countries would spend about US$12 billion to import some 40 million tonnes of wheat to feed the continent's rapidly expanding populace.

"This constitutes more than a fourth of Africa's total food import expenditures (US$40 billion). Yet Africa's farmers produce only 44 per cent of the wheat consumed on the continent, with wheat self-sufficiency rates going down," Shiferaw stated. "These trends threaten the nutritional and economic security of the region and if Africa doesn't push for wheat self-sufficiency, it can face more hunger, instability and even political violence."

According to the report, Africa's wheat research and production could become important for the rest of the world.

"For example, current research in Kenya and Ethiopia is helping stop global spread of major dangerous wheat diseases such as Ug99 stem rust.

By 2013, Kenya and Ethiopia will have enough rust resistant seed to replace susceptible varieties now sown by farmers," it stated.
It also challenged African countries to stimulate domestic production and stop subsidising wheat imports.

"There are currently many infrastructure bottlenecks in the wheat value chain which prevent farmers from accessing inputs, markets and consumers and grain marketing costs are too high," it stated.

It advised Africa to increase local wheat production and reduce dependence on volatile international markets.

"Protecting domestic production will help to remove heavy import subsidies. It will also support policy harmonisation of national standards on seed varieties produced in and for African countries," it stated.

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