Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

e-Comesa Newsletter - 97
27 April 2007

Precarious Food situation in COMESA

The new Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Ms. Josette Sheeran has pledged her commitment to work to cut hunger in Africa through Power of Purchase to support sustainable Agriculture. The Executive Director has since stressed the need for WFP to procure food for emergency from national and regional sources. For example in 2004, WFP purchased about 3.5 million tonnes of grain worth about 1.1 billion dollars. Of this amount 800,000 tonnes was purchased in Africa. Some of the leading suppliers in COMESA include Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi Sudan, Rwanda, Egypt, and Zambia.

Ms Sheeran told a consultative round table that WFP overhead was only 7% thus ensuring cost effectiveness. Equally important is for WFP to attend to food emergency on a timely basis.

“Nothing should stand between a needy or dying child and the WFP” said Ms Sheeran. The Executive Director was speaking in Addis Ababa on her first trip since assuming office begging of April this year. Ms Sheeran told a meeting attended by Aid and Development Agencies that Africa was her priority hence her visit.

And addressing the same meeting, COMESA Secretary General, Erastus Mwencha said the food situation in the region was precarious. The number of people consuming less would increase if there was no significant intervention. “The COMESA region should not be a net importer of cereals but issues related to inadequate production and productivity, poor rural and regional infrastructure conditions and linkages, poor storage facilities and other considerations have meant that the region has been compelled to be a net importer of cereals,” Mr Mwencha pointed out.
In 2004, the COMESA region produced 46.3 million metric tonnes of cereals mostly maize, but imported 17.5 million tonnes, or nearly 40 percent of the production at the cost of US$3.3 billion. Not much has changed in the last two years.

To meet the cereal requirements for consumption, replace imports and meet other uses, the region would need to produce in about 80.6 million tones or double the region’s current production levels. Given the region’s hugely underutilized arable land, favourable climate and abundant water resources, this need not be a daunting task. “With proper policies, strategies and partnerships between the public and private sector as well as the International community including the WFP this goal can be achieved or even exceeded.” said Mwencha. He then elaborated on the COMESA agricultural programme under the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).

Before her appointment Ms Sheeran previously worked as Deputy United States Trade Representative before moving to the State Department as Deputy Secretary.

Other features in this newsletter:

  • The Grain Trade Summit: COMESA and EAGC sign MOU to promote open regional grain trade markets
  • “Shire-Zambezi Waterway Project, A Dream Come True” – Ngwenya
  • COMESA Business Forum Set for Nairobi
  • The African Industrial Association rejects the Economic Partnership Agreements
  • Regional Customs Guarantee Scheme Training Underway in Lusaka
  • World Dairy Players to Converge in Zambia

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