Business Opportunity: Africa Needs More Wheat Growers

Business Opportunity: Africa Needs More Wheat Growers

African countries spends nearly $15 billion annually importing wheat to meet their domestic demand as local producers cannot match the requirement, experts attending a four day agriculture research conference have said.

According to a 2012 research report by non-profit International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, sub-Saharan Africa only produce 10 to 25 percent of its potential wheat capacity and nations in the region can easily grow more to limit hunger and price shocks, Reuters reported.

Agricultural experts from eight African countries meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, for the Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-CS) wheat annual review, said it was unfortunate the continent was spending billions of dollars on a commodity they could easily produce.

“We should have passion. If we feel passionate about domesticating wheat on the continent we can reduce the import bill from $15 billion and use the money for infrastructural development,” Hellenic Shipping News quoted Ringson Chitsiko, of Zimbabwe-based agriculture, mechanism and irrigation development secretary, saying.

“Increasing wheat production is an urgent endeavor and we cannot leave it for later time or years. We should do it now,” he added.

While Africa has the largest arable land available for cultivation, poor agriculture policies and land tenure systems have left many people living in poverty, with many surviving at below $1.20 a day.

Wheat is not considered ‘an African food’ by most governments in the region and no proper policies have been created for the few wheat farmers cultivating it.

Only a few countries like Ethiopia, South Africa and Kenya have well established wheat farming, but there is potential to expand its production further in highland areas on other sub-Saharan nations.

Chitsiko said Zimbabwe was putting efforts to turn the fortunes of the wheat sub-sector targeting about 200 000 tonnes as one of the Food Security and Nutrition Cluster outputs of the Zim Asset”, The Herald reported.

Wheat in Zimbabwe has been declining from high levels such as 248 888 tonnes of 2004 to current low levels of about 62 000 tonnes.

“The $15 billion being spent by Africa for importing food can be spent for other developmental programmes,” Dr Solomon Assefa, SARD-CS co-ordinator, said.