Research findings have ranked Rwanda among 12 countries which have certain areas that could be profitable for competitive domestic production and the highest stimulated yields especially in the highland production systems.
The first ever comprehensive research report on sub-Saharan Africa’s economic and biological potential for producing wheat was conducted by researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
The report indicated that the region’s farmers may be growing only 10 to 25 percent of the production the research suggests is both biologically possible and economically profitable.
The report was released, on 9 Oct 2012, at the first conference ever to seriously explore where increased wheat growing in Africa is biologically feasible, economically profitable and internationally competitive as a hedge against food insecurity, political instability and price shocks.
The authors warned of the need for further analysis to address the economic, social and environmental impact of boosting wheat production on the rich agricultural lands of eastern and southern Africa.
The research analysis focused on 12 countries: Rwanda, Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe and the authors carried out a comprehensive review of economic and agricultural research and of other relevant data to understand the dynamics of the African wheat economy.
Research findings indicated that in 2012, these African countries will spend about US$12 billion to import some 40 million tons of wheat, particularly for people who live in the rapidly growing cities of Africa, yet, across the continent, which accounts for 15 percent of the global market for wheat, farmers produce only 44 percent of the wheat consumed locally, leaving Africa’s growing demand for the crop largely in the hands of global traders.
It also indicated that each of the 12 countries has certain areas that could be profitable for competitive domestic production, simulated yields were highest in the highland production systems of eastern and Central Africa, including Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania and Uganda.
In terms of sheer land area available for profitable wheat production and actual quantity of wheat that can be produced profitably (wheat yield amount, which depends on the management practices; i.e., wheat genetic potential, climate, soil fertility, among other factors), the eight countries with land areas of at least 0.5 million hectares suitable for competitive production without irrigation include the following, in order of importance:
The estimated average net economic returns per hectare are highest in the highland areas of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, which have the most suitable soils and production conditions.
The study also concluded that fertilizer at the right levels could have a significant impact on yield and on profitability in most nations.
In three countries in southern Africa—Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe—increased wheat production in rain-fed areas may not be feasible, and irrigation would be required to grow wheat in the cool winter months. Zimbabwe is one of the most productive of the wheat-growing nations in Africa, but wheat farmers there are almost entirely dependent on irrigation.
“According to this model, Rwanda is among the countries with the highest projected average mean yield for rain fed spring wheat production worldwide,” said Hans-Joachim Braun, director of ” Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT’s) Global Wheat Program. ”We are showing the promise is there, but any decisions to act on these results should rest on an in-depth review of what investments will be needed and a study of the possible economic, environmental, economic and social trade-offs of making those investments.
According to the authors of the study, the potential for expansion of wheat production is greatest in countries with some underutilized but suitable land and with good market access. Given that wheat is currently a relatively minor crop in many of the countries, farmers will not expand production until there are markets and value chains that offer competitive prices.
In countries and production areas where land is scarce and labor is cheaper (e.g., many highland and mid-altitude production areas), the potential for intensive cereal production using modern varieties and inputs is high. Here market access and extension support will be the critical constraints to intensification. In areas where land is abundant and labor is scarce, wheat production using mechanization would be a feasible option.