By Justice Lee Adoboe
ACCRA, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- An expert on food security declared here on Thursday the West African sub-region was food self- sufficient despite critical deficit in some regions.
Henri Josserand (Ph. D), a consultant for Food Across Borders, said the sub-region had been able to feed itself over the last 50 years, with no serious increase in the volume of food imported.
Food Across Borders is an initiative driven by sub-regional body Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Josserand, an expert with over 30 years of work in economic development, agricultural and food policy, food security, vulnerability analysis, and early warning systems, admitted that though there was still some amount of food import from outside the region, this had not been increasing.
According to him, the picture painted in the sub-region was a very encouraging one, as Sahelian countries such as Niger and Mali, which imported cereals in different volumes, also produced crops such as onions, livestock, and cowpea, among others, for export.
"The challenge has to do with the efficiency of trade across the region because if prices of these cereals go up, not everybody in Niger, Mali or other Sahelian countries can pay for them," he stated.
The efficiency of trade, he believed, needed to be addressed early enough since the volume of trade in food crops in the region was far greater than recorded statistics had recognized.
"Trade is a useful tool and beneficial to food security, else food cannot move from areas of abundance to areas of need," he stressed.
Josserand stated in a paper he delivered at the three-day Food Across Borders conference that data collected from 60 major markets in 12 countries in the region indicated that the main commodities traded in were maize, onions, millet, rice and onions.
Trade also totaled over 800 million U.S. dollars annually, with about 5 million tons of maize moving across borders annually.
Rice, Joserrand found out, was the second most imported cereal in the region with imports going to rise further, while over 350, 000 tons of onions also moved across borders, adding that official figures reflected only a third of actual flows of commodities in the region.
He said however that there was a huge potential for change within the next 25 years as the phenomenon of growing population and urbanization would trigger the quadrupling of trade n food items across West Africa.
He urged governments of ECOWAS member-states and regional bodies that acted on their behalf to recognize this reality early and know what to do to deal with the situation.
"The urgency and speed at which this is coming is greater than they have ever witnessed, and they should rather adjust to it than resist, else the move would sweep them away," the expert warned.