Big Representation from Africa and Asia for Agribusiness Forum - The New Indian Express

Big Representation from Africa and Asia for Agribusiness Forum

Published: 21st January 2014 06:37 PM

Last Updated: 21st January 2014 06:37 PM

Representatives of 54 countries from Africa and 41 from Asia have been invited for the first ever Asia-Africa Agribusiness Forum Feb 4-6 in New Delhi.

The forum is aimed at providing a platform for industry leaders, policy-makers, governments and other important stakeholders to collaborate on the huge potential for growth, development and business in the agricultural sector in the two continents.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is organising the forum in collaboration with the Indian government.

According to Chiji Ojukwu, director in charge of agriculture and agro-industry of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the event is a timely one as Africa is suffering from a food shortage crisis.

He said the lingering volatility of food prices, which was one of the factors that caused the 2011-2012 food crisis in Africa, has not disappeared in 2013 and is expected to remain in the coming years.

"The current food insecurity the Sahel is experiencing is much more a reflection of the region's chronic, long-term vulnerability, than the result of a sudden, short-term shock such as a single drought in 2011," Ojukwu said.

The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition in Africa between the Sahara desert in the north and the Sudanian Savanna in the south.

In addition, Africa has faced very high post-harvest losses of agricultural produce, sometimes up to 40 percent, which, according to the AfDB, are mainly due to lack of transport, processing, storage facilities and links to markets.

The bank has also identified limited access to financial markets and credit, particularly for small farmers who produce the bulk of the food in the continent, as a major problem.

This is hurting their productive capacity as they have little access to technology and inputs.

African governments have not been able to use the private sector to promote agriculture in order to create jobs because of limited returns and relatively high risks associated with agriculture production which the AfDB says are some of the challenges that need to be overcome.

However, FICCI projects that by 2030, the agriculture and agribusiness industry is projected to be $3 trillion in Africa and almost $4.5 trillion in Asia.

"Africa's Agric sector has recorded a growth rate of 3.4 per cent a year, over the last decade while in Asia it has been around 3.1 per cent," FICCI stated.

On its part, the AfDB has put a strategy in place covering 2013-2022 to improve the agricultural sector in Africa.

As part of this strategy, the AfDB would try to unlock the continent's agricultural potential and tackle food insecurity via sustained multi-sectoral interventions.

The desire to improve the sector, according to the AfDB, is because the sector "holds great promise for future growth and job creation,", employs 65-70 per cent of the African workforce and accounts for roughly a third of the continent's GDP.

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