Experts present at the ongoing four days Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-CS) Wheat Annual Review and Planning Meeting said that Africa spends $15 billion every year to import wheat as it’s countries cannot produce enough to meet domestic requirements.
The meeting is being attended by Sub-Saharan African agronomists, wheat breeders, researchers, agriculture economists and wheat farmers from Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Lesotho, Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria.
The Secretary of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Ringson Chitsiko, said Africa should prioritize wheat as a strategic crop and reduce the import bill.
Speaking at the meeting, he said “We should have passion, if we feel passionate about domesticating wheat on the continent, we can reduce the import bill from $15 billion and use the money for infrastructural development.
He also added that wheat production is a sense of urgency we need to feel and do now rather than later days or years
SARD-CS coordinator, Dr Solomon Assefa expressed his disappointment on the billions of dollars spent to import food when it would be easy to be self-sufficient. He also urged policy makers and other stakeholders in both the private and public sectors to work hand in hand to boost agricultural productivity.
“Africa spends $15 billion on wheat imports, a trend which is expected to increase, putting the continent in an alarming position. Africa has huge arable land, but cannot meet its potential. About 49 percent of the population in the region is living on less than $1.20 per day. By addressing productivity, we will ensure people have decent lives. The $15 billion being spent by Africa for importing food can be spent for other developmental programmes,” he said.
SARD-SC promotes production of food crops such as wheat, maize, cassava and rice with funding from the African Development Bank.
Wheat production expert, Dr Tolessa Debele, said wheat is an important crop as it provides gluten protein that allows the processing of a multitude of food such as breads and noodles.