Patterns and Trends in Food Staple Markets in Eastern and Southern Africa: Toward the Identification of Priority Investments and Strategies for Developing Markets and Promoting Smallholder Productivity Growth

  • Date Posted: July 5, 2011
  • Authors: T.S. Jayne, Nicole Mason, Robert Myers, Jake Ferris, David Mather, Margaret Beaver, Natalie Lenski, Antony Chapoto, Duncan Boughton
  • Organizations/Projects: Michigan State University
  • Document Types: Evaluation, Assessment
  • Donor Type: Foundation

In an effort to identify appropriate interventions and policies for improving food security, this paper provides a synthesis of recent research into the behavior of producers and consumers of staple food crops in Eastern and Southern Africa. With respect to smallholder farmers, the report finds that the average land size is declining to the point in some areas and countries that significant productivity upgrades will be required for continued viability, maize continues to be important for farmer incomes but that fruits and vegetables are growing in importance, the sale of traditional cash crops is positively correlated with farm size, and the supply of basic grains is concentrated among relatively few sellers; rarely do more than 40% of farmers sell grain in an average year. Several changes in urban consumption patterns are relevant for food security. Increasing wheat consumption threatens to disconnect urban consumers from rural consumers. Markets for basic grains have become more efficient and marketing margins have narrowed significantly, though grains are often not available for sale at certain times during the year. The report concludes that shrinking land sizes threaten to create a structural maize deficit among Eastern and Southern African countries. Investments that reduce risk and increase opportunities for market players in basic grains and other cash crops will be essential for improving the food security situation. The role of the public sector in addressing these issues is found to be critical, and yet the policy environment for basic grains is characterized by extreme instability.