If Africa learnt to feed its chickens, it could feed its people—Calestous Juma
Written by Calestous Juma, Harvard University.
Africa, which imports nearly 83% of the food it consumes, has a real chicken and egg problem. The continent is caught between pressure from imports in some countries and an inability to meet demand in others.
Africa’s chicken crisis is an expression of overall weaknesses in its agricultural system. If Africa cannot raise its grain production it cannot expect do well in increasing its chicken output.
It is a complex problem. Producing chickens requires low-cost feed such as corn. Yet producing grain to meet human needs remains one of the continent’s most pressing challenges. Africa’s urban populations, for example, are growing faster than the continent can produce grain. This has contributed to Africa’s shift from being a net food exporter to being a net food importer.
The inability to ramp up grain production has affected Africa’s ability to feed its people as well as its chicken. Its imports for grain as well as chicken have been rising as a result. Its import of poultry products is estimated at $3 billion a year.
Imports lead to oversupply
South Africa is the continent’s largest chicken producer. According to the South African Poultry Association, chicken imports from Brazil, the European Union and the US are destroying the domestic sector.
The South African Poultry Association’s chief executive officer, Kevin Lovell, has been quoted as saying that
South Africa has the capacity to grow its own chickens at a far cheaper rate compared to most countries in the world. However it is unable to do so due to imports.
South Africa has a trade agreement with the US which allows for tariff-free quotas of key agricultural products. One of these is chicken from the US. This is done in exchange for preferential trade under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
With increased imports following the trade agreement, additional imported chicken has been added to the South Africa. This has led to oversupply and price reduction. This may benefit consumers, but it undercuts incentives for local production.
In much of the rest of Africa the problem is different.
Inability to meet demand
Population growth, urbanisation and changing diets have over the last 20 years shifted African meat consumption away from beef to pork and poultry.
According to some estimates, chicken now accounts for nearly half of the meat consumed in Africa.
The supply of poultry has not kept up with the demand, which is in turn pushing up prices. This may sound like good news for those able to invest in the sector. For example, Bill Gates has estimated that a farmer breeding five hens could generate up to $1,000 a year, which is above the $700 poverty line. As a result, he has pledged to donate100,000 chickens to kick start poultry farming in sub-Saharan Africa.READ MORE
Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development, Harvard University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.