The African continent is far from being self-sufficient in wheat production

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The African continent is far from being self-sufficient in wheat production. The 2018/19 wheat imports are estimated at 51 million tonnes, which is almost double the volume produced in the same season.

- This, however, is concentrated in a few countries, namely; Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria which account for more than half of the expected import volume. This is partially explained by the fact that bread is a staple food, specifically in Egypt and Algeria. The other notable wheat importers in the African continent are Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Sudan.

- This is likely to remain the key theme over the next couple of years as there are no convincing wheat breeding or production plans in the pipeline in many countries. In South Africa, the wheat industry is currently doing research on ways to boost yields, but the outcome of these efforts might take time to materialise.

- The expected 18 percent annual improvement in South Africa’s wheat production in the 2018/19 production season to 1.8 million tonnes has largely been driven by an increase in area planted and expected higher yield following improvement in weather conditions.

- The other countries that set to record an uptick in wheat production, albeit remaining net importers, are Algeria and Morocco with the 2018/19 harvest estimate at 2.9 million tonnes and 7.3 million tonnes, respectively.

- The import dependency exposes the African continent exposed to shocks in the global wheat market. A case in point is the 2018/19 production season, where the expected 6 percent annual decline in global wheat production to 717 million tonnes could lead to tight supplies and in turn higher prices. These higher prices might translate to food price increases for the net importing African markets, which could reduce local demand. AGBIz