If there was ever to be a face of staple crops on the African continent, it is of certainty that cereals would be a top contender. Cereal consumption cuts across a variety blend of cultures and they provide more food energy than any other crop across the globe.
Historically, Africa is considered to be the continent of origin and major producer of most cereals consumed in the continent, such as; sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, teff and African rice. Perhaps more practically, maize and wheat are very important crops with consumption cutting across African kitchens, regardless of class or social strata.
Among the 22 countries in the world where Maize has the highest percentage of calorie intake, 16 are from Africa; and an estimated 208 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa depend on the crop as a source of food security and economic well being.
However, cereals yield in Africa is lower than the world average. According to FAO stats, the average fertilizer consumption is 16.24 kg/ha which is 1/6th compared to the world consumption of 98.20 kg/ha. Data released in 2015 revealed Nigeria, Tanzania and Ethiopia as the top three nations on the continent where maize is harvested, with a combined estimate of 13 million ha of arable land. It took at least a concerted effort of the remaining nations in the top 15 of the list to match that figure.
Similar stats for other cereals such as millet, sorghum and barley reveal a pattern on the top 15 list which is dominated by 3-4 nations, while the rest are seemingly incomparable to the top harvesting nations.
On a global scale, the production of cereals for 2017/2018 is 2650.8 million tones with China, The United States of America and India among the top 3 producing nations of a variety of cereals. Also, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Australia and Russia are among the top list of exporters across the world.
It is both interesting and obvious to discover that no African country features on the list as issues range from funding, inadequate productivity of smallholder farmers, to the case for improved technologies such as stress-resistant and high yielding varieties of cereals.
In recent years, various bodies across the continent have been set up to improve the cereals production rate on the continent. Projects such as Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of sorghum and millets in Sub-Saharan Africa, Sorghum Transformational Value Chain (STVC) and Agricultural Transformational Agenda are among others that have been set up to support increased yield and productivity of cereal farming in Africa.
Nevertheless, the future remains unseen and uncertain, but there is a definite increase in the demand for cereals in Africa and meeting the needs would not just help to feed the continent but also boost the potential of Agribusiness in the continent.