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HomeBreaking NewsAfrica's Vast Arable Land Underutilized for Both Cash and Food Crops

Africa’s Vast Arable Land Underutilized for Both Cash and Food Crops

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NAIROBI, Jan 16 (IPS) – Concerns are rife that while Africa is growing more crops, these are not for food and that on the current trajectory, present food import costs into Africa, now estimated at 55 billion US dollars a year, could double by 2030.

Three crop species-maize, wheat and rice meet an estimated 50 percent of the global requirements for proteins and calories, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Yet despite Africa’s expensive agricultural sector, the continent’s maize, rice, and wheat account for 7, 5, and 4 percent of the world’s production, respectively. But experts say pitting food crops against cash crops is not the right conversation to have.

“The most productive conversation should be firmly centered on how to support farmers to produce more food for everyone and to export even more as this will improve the farmer’s quality of life and get themselves out of poverty,” says Hafez Ghanem, former regional Vice President of the World Bank Group and a current nonresident senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution.

He tells IPS the mistake many countries made after independence was to try to ensure cheap food for people in the cities by keeping farmgate prices low and by trying to coerce farmers into producing certain food crops. The result was that the farmer became poor. If the farmer is poor, they cannot produce, and in the long run, everybody becomes poor and hungry.

“No country can produce all the foods that it needs. We will have to export some and produce some. If we start increasing yields for cereals, for instance, through increased use of quality seeds, fertilizer, and irrigation, farmers can produce

NAIROBI, Jan 16 (IPS) - Concerns are rife that while Africa is growing more crops, these are not for food and that on the current trajectory, present food import costs into Africa, now estimated at 55 billion US dollars a year, could double by 2030. Three crop species-maize, wheat and rice meet an estimated 50 percent of the global requirements for proteins and calories, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). But experts say pitting food crops against cash crops is not the right conversation to have.

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