Bloomberg News

Food Producers Look to Africa to Feed Globe’s Growing Population

June 19, 2014

Producers are looking to Africa to feed a growing global population as land and water constraints curb the scope for raising output in other regions, the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association said.

“The world depends upon Africa becoming a part of the food production system of the world for us be able to feed 9 or 10 billion people that are going to be out there by 2050,” Thad Simons, president of organization known as Ifama, said in an interview in Cape Town yesterday. “Sixty percent of available arable land in the world is in Africa. It also has a lot more water resources than in other parts of the world.”

Almost three-quarters of Africa’s 1 billion people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. A World Bank report released last year found the value of the region’s food market should rise to $1 trillion by 2030 from $313 billion as urbanization on the world’s poorest continent drives an increase in demand.

Ifama, based in Washington, has more than 700 members in 50 countries. The affiliates include companies such as DuPont Co. (DD:US), the largest U.S. chemical maker by market value, and Novus International Inc., a St. Charles, Missouri-based supplier of animal-nutrition products, as well as academics, governments, researchers and consumer groups.

A study released by the group at a conference in Cape Town this week identified unclear land ownership laws and lack of roads, railways, bridges and port to be among constraints to increased food production in Africa.

Raising Barriers

“Markets present some of the biggest challenges to the food system,” the study said. “Governments and their policies can raise barriers to trade and poor infrastructure limits access to markets and customers. Price volatility may raise barriers to entry and make longer-term planning more difficult. Many markets are fragmented and lack transparency.”

Small-scale African farmers’ reliance on an open-pollinated variety of seed retained from their harvests also curbs crop yields, said Carl Moyo, director of government affairs and agricultural development at DuPont Pioneer, a seed unit of the U.S. company.

“The average small-scale farmers’ yield is half a ton per hectare,” compared with more than 10 tons per hectare on commercial farms in South Africa using higher-yielding hybrid seeds, Moyo said in an interview. “If you can convert these small-scale farmers to hybrid seeds, you can increase yields to more than 5 tons per hectare. That really makes a transformational change.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net Ana Monteiro, Gordon Bell


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