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Recent conference gets wheat back on Africa’s map


Reused by beyase wheat flour mill, bread flour mill, flour milling machine

Wheat is increasingly in demand in sub-Saharan Africa as a result of income growth and the demand for convenience foods as more women enter the workplace, but sub-Saharan countries and Africa as a whole produce only about 30% and 40%, respectively, of their domestic requirements, causing a heavy dependence on imports and making the region highly vulnerable to global market and supply shocks.


This was one conclusion reached by some 250 researchers, policymakers, farmer, and seed company representatives who attended the conference “Wheat for food security in Africa: Science and policy dialogue about the future of wheat in Africa,” held in Addis Ababa during 08-12 October 2012. Organized by Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), CIMMYT, ICARDA, IFPRI, the African Union, and WHEAT-the CGIAR research program, the event was intended to raise awareness about the potential to grow wheat and reduce the region’s imports of the crop, as well as to discuss policy, institutional, and infrastructure constraints. “In 2012, African countries will spend about US$12 billion to import some 40 million tons of wheat,” said Hans Braun, director of CIMMYT’s global wheat program. “If Africa does not push for wheat self-sufficiency, it could face more hunger, instability and even political violence, as bread riots in North Africa showed in recent years.”

Participants hailed from 23 African nations, as well as from Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and included 4 ministers of agriculture (Burundi, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe) and the directors of national agricultural research programs of 16 countries in Africa. Deemed a great success by participants and organizers, the event and the issues discussed were reported widely in regional and global media, including major outlets such as Nature, New Scientist, Le Monde, BBC Radio, and Deutsche Welle, as well as key wire services like Reuters-Thomson, Associated Press, and Bloomberg. An equally important outcome was the “Addis Declaration” formulated by conference participants and intended to get wheat onto Africa’s policy map as a strategic product for food security, according to Bekele Shiferaw, director of CIMMYT’s socioeconomics program and a co-author of a major report1 on wheat farming in Africa. “Unlocking the potential of wheat will require changes in attitudes, policy and donor support for adapting farming systems, empowering African farmers, and developing value chains for seeds, input supply, and output markets,” Shiferaw said.


The busy four-day agenda included visits to Ethiopia’s premier agricultural research stations at Kulumsa and Debre Zeit. The conference program committee would like to thank all who contributed, but special recognition goes to logistics team of Petr Kosina, Bekele Abeyo, and Dave Hodson. Presentations, publications, media reports, and posters are available on the conference web page.



Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East but now cultivated worldwide. In 2013, world production of wheat was 713 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize (1,016 million tons) and rice (745 million tons).

There are six wheat classifications:
1) Hard red winter 2) Hard red spring 3) Soft red winter 4) Durum (hard) 5) Hard white 6) Soft white wheat.

The hard wheat has the most amount of gluten and are used for making bread, rolls and all-purpose flour. The soft wheat is used for making flat bread, cakes, pastries, crackers, muffins, and biscuits. A high percentage of wheat production in the EU is used as animal feed, often surplus to human requirements or low-quality wheat.



Maize, also known as corn, is a large grain plant domesticated by indigenous peoples in prehistoric times.
The leafy stalk produces ears which contain the grain, which are seeds called kernels. Maize kernels are often used in cooking as a starch. The six major types of maize are dent, flint, pod, popcorn, flour, and sweet.

The maize plant is often 2.5 m (8 ft.) in height, the stem has the appearance of a bamboo cane and is commonly composed of 20 internodes of 18 cm (7 in) length. A leaf grows from each node, which is generally 9 cm (4 in) in width and 120 cm (4 ft) in length.

Ears develop above a few of the leaves in the midsection of the plant, between the stem and leaf sheath, elongating by ~3 mm/day, to a length of 18 cm (7 in) with 60 cm (24 in) being the maximum observed in the subspecies.[19] They are female inflorescences, tightly enveloped by several layers of ear leaves commonly called husks. Certain varieties of maize have been bred to produce many additional developed ears. These are the source of the “baby corn” used as a vegetable in Asian cuisine.