For centuries, the traditional cereals of millet and sorghum were the key suppliers of calories in West Africa. However, over the past few decades, these cereals have been steadily losing their share of contribution to calories in the region to rice, maize, and, more recently, wheat. Rice is now the key contributor of calories in West Africa, having overtaken both sorghum and millet, while maize has caught up and is also poised to overtake them. This has serious implications.

Traditional cereals are grown mostly by poor subsistence farmers and the loss of market share has important implications for poverty reduction. Replacement foods, rice in particular, tend to be imported, which can negatively affect food security of the region. Growing competition for food has already pushed prices to new heights and increased the import bills of many countries (West Africa is the biggest regional importer of rice in the world). Fears of lessoning future food supplies are creating a very unstable global supply situation with occasional panics causing import restrictions. These fears are further compounded by the specter of climate change that will see significant drops in cereals productivity.

This newsletter explores the challenges and prospects of traditional cereals. The first article explores trends in consumption and explores emerging opportunities, the second explores the prospects for high-value commercial products derived from traditional cereals, and the third explores the prospects for upgrading traditional products made from millets and sorghums.

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