By CHIMA TITUS NWOKOJI
Nigeria is the largest producer of food staples in West Africa but accounts for 36 percent of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) food imports. The country is a major importer of grains to satisfy urban consumption needs, says a recent World Bank report, titled: ‘Africa-Can-Feed Africa Report’.
According to the report endorsed by World Bank Vice President for Africa, Makthar Diop, Nigeria is the world’s leading producer of cassava, yams and taro root, and the second largest producer of sweet potatoes. “It accounts for 69 percent of the regional supply of these products, and also accounts for half of the grains produced in West Africa and is the world’s largest producer of cowpeas.
Still, while domestic production provides most of the food for Nigeria’s urban areas, the country has a deficit in rice and wheat. “Every year Nigeria imports more than one million tons of rice, making it among the largest rice importing countries in the world, and more than two million tons of wheat flour,” the World Bank report stated.
The bank wants Africa’s farmers to contribute more to meeting high demand for food, predicting that given population growth and increased urbanization, Africa’s demand for food staples will grow dramatically in the coming decade. Indeed it added, “Demand is expected to double by 2020, primarily in cities leading to higher import bills for food.”
The report also stated that production of food staples for growing urban markets and food deficit rural areas presents the largest growth opportunity for African farmers; adding that the market value of Africa’s food staple production is at least $50 billion per year, equivalent to three-quarters of all agricultural output going by a World Bank 2008 estimate.
“Food trade has yet to be unlocked within Africa, together with its potential to raise income for farmers and enhance food security for all. For that, reforms need to happen. And to put reforms in motion, nothing would help more than evidence brought to the attention of the common citizen,” he added.
This is the ultimate purpose of this report, and of the Africa Trade Practice at the World Bank,” the bank’s report stated.