Food and agricultural trade of AO with the World, Africa, Europe in 2015 and 2019, 28 September 2021



This study updates and expands on the study with the same title dated July 5, 2021, which is also based on two previous studies on « Africa’s Growing and Suicidal Extraversion of Trade » and « UNCTAD Propagated the Myth of Africa’s Huge Food Dependence ». It presents West Africa’s (WA) food and agricultural trade[1] by product category and for the main countries receiving its exports and supplying its imports in 2015 and 2019. It adds the value of food and non-food agricultural production according to the FAO but its estimates are partial. The summary is limited to the year 2019.

As WA’s coffee-cocoa-tea-spice (CCTE) trade balance with the world accounted for 79.6% of its total food trade balance in 2019, without CCTE WA had a food deficit of $8.7 billion ($B). WA’s trade balance with Africa was negative while it had a surplus with the world in 2015, with Africa accounting for 12.8% of food exports and 13.7% of imports. WA’s agricultural trade surplus with the world increased by 5.3 times from 2015 to 2019, the deficit with Africa decreased by 43.7%, and the intra-WA agricultural surplus increased by 3.1 times. Cereals and preparations constitute the main food deficit ($6.7 billion), including $2.7 billion for wheat and $3.1 billion for rice. Other deficits are miscellaneous food preparations ($1.8bn), sugar and preparations ($1.4bn), dairy products ($1bn), with fish and preparations moving from a deficit of $0.8bn in 2015 to a surplus of $54m. The main surplus items are CCTE (95.5% cocoa), by $8bn, and fruits and vegetables ($2.6bn), oilseeds ($0.9bn). Although not food, the cotton surplus is $2.4 billion.

The breakdown of food trade by continent (exports, imports and the sum of the two) puts Europe in the lead for the sum of the two and especially for exports, but Asia weighs almost as much for imports. America is slightly ahead of Africa for the sum of the two, but if America is ahead of Africa for imports, Africa is ahead of America for exports. West African food trade with Europe is mainly with the EU28: 94.2% of exports and 75.8% of imports. Intra-WA food trade accounts for the bulk of WA’s trade with Africa: 81.3% for exports and 73.8% for imports, while intra-WA agricultural trade accounts for 81.2% of exports to Africa and 68.3% of imports from Africa.

This is further evidence of the need to strengthen regional integration within WA before seeking to strengthen continental integration with the AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area). While China is the largest supplier of food products to WA, it also has the world’s largest food deficit ($60 billion). China is the leading supplier of fish and fish products, fruits and vegetables, and various food preparations to WA. China is also the leading supplier of non-food agricultural raw materials to WA and even the leading supplier of agricultural products in 2019, but the US was far ahead in 2015. The Netherlands is the leading destination for WA food exports ($2.7 billion) thanks to cocoa exports (it imports 36.7% of the total exported by WA) which accounted for 92.5% of its food imports from WA. China is only the 10th largest exporter of food to WA but the largest exporter of agricultural commodities, accounting for 23.1% of WA’s exports of these products, thanks to cotton. While WA imported $15.051 billion in food products in 2015 (including and $16.607 billion in 2019 (after $16.485 billion in 2018, including $13.930 billion outside of Africa), its unprocessed food production declined according to FAOSTAT from $91.297 billion in 2015 to $80.414 billion in 2018 (no data for 2019). As a result, the percentage of extra-African food imports on the value of production + imports (from $116.6 billion in 2015 to $107.2 billion in 2018) was 11.4% in 2015 and 13.0% in 2019, contrary to UNCTAD’s assertion that « From 2016 to 2018, Africa imported about 85% of its food from outside the continent. To prioritize its long-term food sovereignty over a short-term surplus by disconnecting from global value chains and bilateral agreements, particularly with the EU, WA must establish political solidarity between coastal and Sahelian countries.

By sharply reducing the area under cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria in favor of cereals, oilseeds, protein crops, fodder legumes, roots and tubers, a large part of which would provide the Sahelian livestock with fodder resources allowing for a strong expansion of livestock production, particularly dairy production, which would in turn be returned to the coastal countries. If WA wants to prioritize its long-term food sovereignty over a short-term trade surplus while creating the millions of additional jobs needed each year to cope with its demographic explosion and safeguard its environment, human rights and security while minimizing jihadist attacks, it must radically change its agricultural policy (ECOWAP). But this will only be possible by sharing a political solidarity, notably between the coastal countries and the Sahelian countries as well as between the ethnic groups within each country. This would only be a return to the sources of the empires that covered the majority of WA states as described in particular by Cheikh Anta Diop, Joseph Ki-Zerbo and Yves Person, empires that colonization hastened to dismantle according to the principle of « divide and rule.

In particular, the areas devoted to cocoa in West Africa will be drastically reduced, especially in Côte d’Ivoire where « Since 1960, Côte d’Ivoire has lost 90% of its forest » and here and there, with a very negative effect on the climate and biodiversity and with highly fluctuating budgetary revenues that are not very profitable for small planters, despite the quasi-slave labor force of Sahelian children But CIRAD, funded by the EU and under pressure from cocoa multinationals, seems to believe in the possibility of improving cocoa production and reforesting the country in an ecologically and socially sustainable way, under the pretext that world demand for cocoa should increase. This ignores the fact that, without the exemption from customs duties to be paid to the EU for its cocoa products exports linked to the interim EPAs of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, these exports would not be competitive with those of Latin American and Asian countries exempt from customs duties in their bilateral free trade agreements with the EU.

To restructure agricultural production in WA, a large part of the cocoa area would be replaced by cereals, oilseeds, protein crops, roots and tubers, a large part of which would be exported to Sahelian countries to provide fodder for a strong expansion of livestock production, especially dairy, part of which would return to coastal countries.

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[1]Agricultural trade results from adding non-food agricultural raw materials to food products and deducting fish and preparations (not agricultural products in the WTO sense).