Dispatches from World Nutrition Forum in Cape Town
'Will Africa produce the food or will feeding Africa become a global challenge?'
Albert Van Rensburg, Biomin’s regional director, Africa, was speaking to the assembled world agriculture and feed media representatives at a press conference ahead of the company’s World Nutrition Forum, in Cape Town earlier this month.
Citing FAO data indicating the estimated annual growth rates in consumption of livestock products up to 2050 in Africa – 3.3% for poultry and pork, 3.1% for eggs, 2.5% for beef and 2.2% for milk - he raised the question of how the food production system will address that rising demand.
He asked whether growing consumption would be met by stimulation of local production in Africa or whether the continent will increasingly become a net importer of animal-sourced foods.
“Will Africa produce the food or will feeding Africa become a global challenge?”
The FAO has predicted that Africa will import 12% of its net livestock products by 2030 and 15% by 2050.
Flagging up the importance of the agricultural sector in Africa, he said it comprised, for now, mainly smallholders, with the total number of farms on the continent coming in at 51 million. The agriculture sector supplies 70% of Africa’s total food requirements and comprises over 60% of the total labor force. The sector also accounts for around 20-30% of total GDP for Africa as a region and is the primary source of foreign exchange earnings, he added.
Livestock in Africa has the potential to help reduce poverty, he continued. Animal production can achieve food and nutritional security for Africa, as well as contributing to economic growth (GDP) and to exports and foreign exchange earnings. "It is important to focus on helping the smallholder farmers."
However, a lack of good quality animal feed is perhaps the most critical constraint to increasing livestock productivity in Africa, even when it is available, he stressed. “Poor quality ingredients, raw materials are an issue.”
GM technology could help solve some of the challenges in relation to feed on the continent but there is a lot of resistance to such technology, he told FeedNavigator.
The adoption of GM technology in Africa has been slowed by international and domestic opposition. NGOs such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Genewatch, ActionAid and GM Freeze and their affiliates and allies in Africa have urged countries not to commercialize GM crops. Opponents claim it would mortgage their agricultural sector to large multinational agri-businesses, harm biodiversity, undermine small farmers and expose their populations to the potential health hazards of consuming GM food.
The lack of infrastructure and logistical headaches in transporting feed from one country to another are also proving an impediment to business growth, said Vans Rensburg.
EMEA regional business unit
Biomin, he said, is setting up a regional unit for Africa and the Middle East. It is hiring additional staff with local market expertise, and expanding the markets it serves in sub-Saharan Africa.
“We are committed to Africa.”
Biomin’s focus in the region is on enhancing feed quality, animal health and productivity on the continent, he said. There are challenges around feed storage, feed hygiene, and silage quality.
It is an active member of the Animal Feed Producers Organization of South Africa (AFMA).
The feed additives company has been undertaking feeding and product trials with local universities. It has also been doing some product efficacy evaluation work with local feed and livestock producers, and is involved in research initiatives such as MycoSafe-South, a project aimed at safe and efficient mitigation strategies to reduce aflatoxins (AFs) and fumonisins (FBs) exposure in Africa.
Van Rensburg also talked about the need to bring in experience from other markets to help South African and other African countries prepare for a ban on the use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) in livestock production.
While there are massive opportunities for investment, both in terms of capital-intensive projects and in knowledge building in Africa, what is needed now, from both governments and organizations in Africa, is policy and institutional reforms, agricultural development strategies, infrastructure and finance, and private-public partnerships, he concluded.