Africa still hungry despite annual $3 billion of aid and $33 billion of food imports – UN


11 March - One in three Africans is chronically hungry, despite $3 billion spent on food aid for the continent annually and $33 billion in food imports, the director of the food security at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has warned.

Much of the $33 billion that Africa spends to import food could be better diverted to domestic production for regional and global trade, contributing to poverty reduction and repositioning Africa in the global economy, said Josue Dione, Director of Food Security and Sustainable Development of ECA, at a conference on agribusiness that wrapped up yesterday in Abuja, Nigeria.

“African agriculture is thirsty as less than 4 per cent of the total arable land is irrigated compared to 33 per cent in Asia and the Pacific and 29 per cent in the Middle East. African agriculture is hungry as it receives only 14.6 kilograms of fertilizers per hectare, against 114.3 kilograms per hectare for all developing countries,” Mr. Dione said in an address on behalf of the ECA's Executive Secretary Abdoulie Janneh.

Africa's share in world agriculture trade fell to 3.2 per cent in 2006 from 5.4 per cent in the 1980s and 15 per cent in the 1960s, according to ECA.

The continent's small share in regional and global agricultural trade is strongly associated with a shift in world agricultural trade away from bulk commodities, Mr. Dione said.

“Significant part of global agro-food trade has moved downstream along the value chains, and thus become less dependent purely on natural-resource endowment,” Mr. Dione said.

Yet moving Africa's food and agriculture system towards processed, higher value-added products has been more difficult for the continent than for other developing regions.

Mr. Dione said while Africa is suffering from a competitive disadvantage in agro-processing, better policies can help improve the business environment and create the conditions necessary for higher private investment in agribusiness.

ECA has advocated for the development of regional value chains for selected agricultural commodities, which would allow domestic production to gain more resources.

“Developing agriculture for broad-based economic growth, food security and poverty reduction in Africa now requires an integrated approach to investing in improving productivity and efficiency at all stages of the commodity value chains, from research and development, to input markets, farm-level production, processing, storage, handling, transport, distribution to the final consumer,” Mr. Dione said.