Africa seeks to tap US$ 33 billion from agricultural trade

Sirte- Libya (PANA) -- African leaders are expected to make a final commitment on the status of agricultural production and work towards the creation of an Afric a n food market to tap the US$ 33 billion spent annually on food imports, a senior African Union (AU) official said here Monday.
The AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, sa id the African leaders, expected to meet here from 1-3 July, would discuss ways o f boosting Africa’s agricultural production.
“We are talking about regional product markets.
Africa’s food import bill is too high.
Our countries are spending US$ 33 billion to import food.
If this money w a s traded in Africa, we would be able to increase our investments,” she said.
African leaders have slated their Summit this July to discuss agricultural produ ction as a means of increasing Africa’s economic growth.
The decision to prioritise agriculture and economic growth has been hailed as a timely move.
Campaigners and lobbyists attending the AU in Sirte, central Libya, have hailed the issue of agriculture and food security as timely, coming against the backdro p of the global food crisis that hit Africa in 2008.
Across Africa, food riots were reported in 2008 after prices of domestic foodstu ffs skyrocketed, and most citizens took to the streets to demand for affordable b asic commodities.
Experts attributed the lack of adequate food stuffs on agricultural policies, ad opted by the West, the use of foodstuffs for biofuel production and the diversio n of arable land to the production of grains for biofuels.
Tumusiime regretted that food production in African had declined in the past and that African leaders had taken steps to stem the decline in production.
She said the effects of climate change and the lack of integrated agricultural f ood markets in Africa were partly to blame for the huge export of African crops.
“The African leaders have been acting.
There has been a trend of increasing inve stments in agriculture,” she told a news conference here Monday.
African leaders agreed in 2003 to increase agricultural production to more than 10 per cent of their country’s overall budget.
Tumusiime said most countries had implemented the decision and some states had g one beyond the 10 per cent requirement and were currently working on increasing i nvestments in other agriculturally-related sectors.
She said African producers of food crops sold their products to Western companie s while the import bill for food crops remained high in Africa.
“Commodities produced in Africa are meant for companies in the west,” she noted, saying there should be a balance between cash crops and food crops.

29 juin 2009 19:13:00

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