African Trade Barriers Curb Food Output, World Bank Says

Trade barriers within Africa are depriving farmers of fertilizers and seeds that could boost production and help the region avoid food crises, the World Bank said in a report.

African farmers could grow enough food to feed the continent if policy makers agreed to lift cross-border restrictions, the Washington-based bank said in the report today. Instead they face regulations, high transportation costs and unpredictable trade policies that lead countries to import food from other continents, according to the study.

“The potential to increase agricultural production in Africa is enormous,” the bank said in the report. “Yields for many crops are a fraction of what farmers elsewhere in the world are achieving and output could easily increase two to three times if farmers were to use updated seeds and technologies.”

World food prices rose in September to the highest in six months as dairy and meat producers passed on higher feed costs to consumers, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said this month. That’s pushing Africa’s food imports bill up because of its reliance on global markets, according to the bank’s report. For example, only 5 percent of imports of cereals are provided by African farmers, the bank said in the report.

“Trade in staples in Africa continues to be affected by measures such as export and import bans; variable import tariffs and quotas; restrictive rules of origin; and price controls,” according to the World Bank report. “Often these are decided upon without transparency and are poorly communicated, if at all, to traders and officials at the border.”

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