Food Security conference rethinks African wheat


For a long time Maize was considered to be Sub-Saharan Africa’s most important cereal crop. Along with cassava it was a focus of international development efforts. Although wheat is popular in some African countries, especially in the north, its production has historically been plummeting because low prices and food aid have made the crop unprofitable for African Farmers. This has resulted in northern African nations importing up to USD 7 billion in wheat each year.
Now demand for wheat, a crop that proved to be economically unfeasible for African farmers just a few decades ago, is growing faster than for any other food crop. Projections indicated that in 2012, African countries will spend about USD 18 billion importing some 40 million tons of wheat particularly for consumers living in cities.
Changing demographics, burgeoning demand for wheat, and the volatility of food prices since 2007 have led agricultural experts from breeders and economists to agriculture ministers and donors to re-think wheat in Africa. Continued African reliance on wheat imports is a major challenge as urban population growth is forecast to increase by 300 percent by 2050 and food prices continue to rise globally. 
As a result an international conference focusing on growing more wheat to foster food security will be coming to Addis Ababa, October 8-12.
The ‘Wheat for Food Security in Africa’ conference hopes to see the continent become one of the major sources of the crop in the coming years.
According to the organizers, the groundbreaking conference will present new research on boosting local wheat production as a hedge against price volatility, reliance on imports and food insecurity.
“Researchers will convene for the first conference ever to explore where increased wheat growing in Africa is biologically feasible, economically profitable and internationally competitive,” the organizers statement indicated. 
The conference will look at food security and how wheat demand has changed, how much the various regions of African can expect to grow, how more can be grown, addressing the challenge of pests, precipitation, and disease and keeping the crop’s price affordable are some of the major issues that will be addressed at the conference.
A landmark report outlining the viability of growing wheat across twelve countries: Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, will be presented.
The conference is being organized by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), the African Union, WHEAT (the CGIAR research program), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).