Keep an eye on climate-smart agriculture

According to FAO, "Climate Smart Agriculture is an approach that identifies the steps needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems in order to effectively support agricultural development and ensure sustainable agriculture, food security in the face of climate change ". In Africa, the flagship program is Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), aimed at strengthening the capacity of agricultural stakeholders at all levels, especially small farmers and institutions in the face of climate change. With an ambitious target of 25 million African farmers practicing climate-smart agriculture by 2025, Africa has no time to waste, especially as our continent is particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.

According to CIRAD, French agricultural research and international cooperation organization, agriculture, deforestation and other land uses are responsible for about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet the international community has been slow to integrate agriculture as a priority issue related to climate change. This has changed since the last UN climate negotiations in Bonn, for COP23, with the decision of countries to integrate agriculture into the Paris Agreement. This was necessary because agriculture contributes significantly to climate change and can therefore play a decisive role in mitigating the effects of this disruption.

Climate-smart agriculture is based on a three-pillar approach: 1) sustainably increase agricultural productivity to achieve equitable income, food security and development; 2) adapt and strengthen resilience to climate change at all levels, from the farm to an entire country; and 3) find solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector.

In Africa, several initiatives have already deliver results. The World Bank gives some examples in a report entitled "Climate-Smart Agriculture: Success in Africa". This is the case for example climate-smart villages in the Nyando Valley in Kenya. In these villages, farmers engage in climate-smart agriculture, including climate-resilient species and cultivars, as well as climate information services. After being trained in climate-smart agriculture, farmers choose smart technologies that they will apply by involving women and other groups (farmers from different communities, researchers in various disciplines, non-governmental organizations).

Another example: in Ethiopia, a mapping of soil health was put in place to better know the extreme variability of these soils. Poor data on soil fertility can sometimes lead to misapplication of fertilizer, which will further damage the health and productivity of the soil. All these initiatives illustrate the awareness in Africa of the need to transform agriculture, with concrete solutions on the ground. It is a very long-term struggle that our continent is starting, but indispensable given the threats that climate change poses to future generations.

Agriculture, an opportunity for Africa youth

The future of youth is at the heart of the debates of all African countries. Today, 65% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is between 15 and 35 years old. This soaring demography worries many experts, who speaks then of "time bomb". Indeed, this youth often already faces the throes of unemployment and precariousness while the African Development Bank estimates that 12 million jobs must be created each year by 2035 to absorb new generations of Africans arriving on the work market.

At an FAO regional conference for Africa in Khartoum at the end of February, the sessions focused on youth employment in the agricultural and rural sectors in Africa. Because this "time bomb" can become a "demographic manna" if the investments are judiciously made. Africa's youth can be a powerful driver for inclusive and strong growth and poverty reduction. But today, more than 70 percent of young Africans have $ 2 a day or less. Rural youth are particularly vulnerable and live more often in poverty.

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This is why the transformation of agriculture, of which a large part of the African population (nearly 62%) is still heavily dependent on the incomes and jobs it creates, is key driver to accelerating growth, diversification and job creation. Too often perceived as a means of subsistence and a way of fighting poverty, agriculture actually has a great potential for investment. Especially since Africa has 65% of the world's uncultivated arable land.

While farmers are on average 65 years old in sub-Saharan Africa, it is time for youth to take over the rural areas of these farmers, and boost the sector through its dynamism to lead the modernization and transformation of the continent's agriculture. This is how Africa will become a global agricultural power, able to feed its people as well as people from other continents.


Which impact in Africa for the European milk crisis?

For several years, Europe has been facing regular milk crises, a situation accentuated by the abolition of milk quotas. As early as November 2015, the German Minister of Agriculture raised the idea of getting out of the milk crisis to increase sales of German dairy products on the world market, especially to Africa.

Many NGOs had been critical of this decision, aiming to turn Africa into a "garbage market" to use the virulent expression of some. The risk is indeed to create real distortions of the market, harming the development of African countries whose sectors are not sufficiently competitive with the European industry. Moreover, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), often denounced as a form of dumping by third countries, may have collateral damage on developing countries.

With the end of milk quotas and the surplus of European production, the milk market is facing a great deal of price volatility. As a result, European milk floods Africa in the form of powdered milk at unbeatable prices. According to a joint study by SOS Faim and Oxfam, skim milk exports to West Africa have tripled since 2009. Between 1996 and 2013, West African milk imports rose from 6 to 2.1 million tonnes of milk equivalent.

Given the current population growth in West Africa, local production, even if it is increasing, is not sufficient to meet the demand. It is therefore a wise balance between European imports and local development of milk production that must be found. As Harvard economics professor Dani Rodrik explains, it is a form of "intelligent protectionism" that needs to be put in place. Most local actors, in the agricultural or industrial sectors, have limited capacity and a fragile production ecosystem (input suppliers, logistic actors, means of financing, etc.). This is why certain protective and accompanying measures are necessary, for milk as for other sectors.

On the other side of the Mediterranean, the European Union must adopt a comprehensive and structured approach to its policy with Africa. Too often, the EU divides diplomatic, economic, security and cultural fields. However, we can not want to fight against migration, want to promote the development of African countries and can not take into account the fragility of some local sectors in the face of competition from European products. For a win-win partnership between Africa and the EU, trade cooperation must be combined with an analysis of its impact on local development. Without this, we can not hope to make the Euro-African whole an axis of common prosperity.


Women's integration into the agricultural sector

Contrary to popular belief, African women are an integral part of the African agricultural sector. The numbers speak for themselves: women make up as much as 52% of the workers in the sector and are responsible for about 50% of the work on farms in sub-Saharan Africa. According to estimates, they would even produce between 60 and 80% of the continent's diet.

But paradoxically, the potential of women in the agricultural sector remains under-exploited. Compared with their male counterparts, women have limited access to productive resources, limiting their contribution to socio-economic development. In their book "Transforming Gender Relations in the Agricultural Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa: Promising Approaches," Marion S. Davis, Cathy Farnworth, and Melinda Sundell argue that women's productivity is lower than that of men because they have limited access to resources such as land, credit and other factors of production. For example, land ownership in Mali often returns to men in more than 85% of cases. And beyond being a means of production, land is also a guarantee to access credit.

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As Africa faces the challenge of its agricultural transformation, African states can no longer neglect the role of women in agriculture. Governments need to adopt an approach to their agricultural strategy based on gender equality, inclusion, sustainability and good governance. For Tacko Ndiaye, gender, equality and rural development specialist at FAO, countries like Rwanda and Ethiopia are examples to follow with a "fair right" with "a system of joint registration by which the land is registered in the name of the wife and the husband. It therefore seems essential to invest in the empowerment of women in agriculture if we really want to fight against poverty in rural areas.

According to United Nations calculations, if women had the same access to agricultural resources as men on the African continent, farm yields could increase by 20 to 30%. While the African farmer is very often a farmer, it is time for us to give women the necessary means to fully participate in the agricultural transformation of our continent.


The fruit industry attends to Fruit Logistica

Each year, Fruit Logistica is the international event of fruits and vegetables industries, bringing together producers, international companies and associations. The event connect together more than 3,100 exhibitors from 84 different countries across the value chain, and more than 75,000 visitors. Among the exhibitors, there were the big names of the banana industry (Del Monte, Chiquita, Compagnie Fruitière ...), several stands from African countries enhancing local productions of each.

For Afruibana, this event was an opportunity to meet the different actors of the fruit sector, to discuss the situation of the banana market and to meet other European and African producers association. Especially since the year 2018 will be crucial for banana after a year 2017 already marked by a significant fall in prices despite the dynamics of consumption, especially in Europe.

During the event, we had the opportunity to meet Denis Loeillet, expert on the banana market at CIRAD. The Fruitrop magazine of the research laboratory is dedicating this month an important report on the banana with the evocative title: "Is the party over? ". In his editorial, Denis Loeillet summarizes the situation as follows: " So, the economic storm predicted a year ago in these columns has come to pass, and could even become a cyclone in 2018. The equation is uncommonly simple, with no unknowns: there are too many bananas on the international market, and the European Union is in the firing line".

Since 2012, the European market has absorbed a million more bananas, thus constituting today a market of 6.3 million tons of bananas. Despite this dynamic, mainly from Eastern Europe, this is not enough to absorb the surplus of supply on the banana market. Many see contracting as the best way to limit damage, as its generalization shows that most players see market saturation as a long-term phenomenon.

Like many agricultural commodities markets, bananas are not immune to a natural disaster (both climatic and sanitary) that could rebalance supply and demand. Nevertheless, despite a real dynamic of consumption, the rise in production remains for the moment much higher and a reversal of the market is hardly possible in the short or medium term. This is why the European Union is expected to act on this issue as a regulator, in order to prevent African and European producers from finding themselves in a situation of unbearable price war against producers in Latin America.


Agriculture at the heart of the agenda of pan-african institutions

At the launch in Abidjan of the 2018 report of the African Economic Outlook, the president of the African Development Bank, Akinwuni Adesina, declared that "agriculture must be at the forefront of Africa’s industrialization". Awarded by the 2017 World Food Prize, Akinwuni Adesina has placed agriculture at the heart of its priorities, particularly through its "Feed Africa" goal but also "Industrialize Africa" through its High-Five for Africa program.

The main theme of the report was on infrastructure, whose needs in Africa are estimated at between $ 170 and $ 230 billion a year. Heavy investments that are cost-effective and indispensable for economic growth, as well as support for the development of the agricultural value chain. While 70% of the population is in rural areas, investing in the agricultural sector is essential to prevent the African countryside from becoming an area of misery.

More recently, at the 30th summit of the African Union (AU), its new president, the Rwandan head of state Paul Kagame, presented his agricultural agenda for the continent. Several flagship projects for the agricultural sector have therefore been announced. Among them are the Africa Agriculture Transformation Scorecard (AATS). These AATS will provide a more accurate picture of the evolution of the agricultural sector in Africa, using 43 indicators and 23 performance categories. The data will be collected by the joint work of the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture of the AU Commission, Nepad and the Regional Economic Communities, in collaboration with development partners.

In addition, Morocco was rewarded at this summit by the AU for its performance in implementing the Malabo Declaration on Accelerating Agricultural Growth in Africa. The "Green Morocco Plan" has been cited as a model for the countries of the continent, according to several African leaders who took part in the AU summit. That was an opportunity for Morocco to benefit from a positive light as the negotiations on the accession of the kingdom to ECOWAS are ongoing.


Agricultural Africa must be digital Africa

Despite significant economic growth rates and remarkable progress in many areas, the African continent still faces many challenges. This is particularly the case for the agricultural sector, exposed to climate change risk, land insecurity with the absence of a land register, the difficult transition from subsistence farming to a more efficient economic model. While Africa covers nearly 60% of the arable land still available around the world, food insecurity and famine are still part of the lives of too many of our compatriots.

Like many sectors, agriculture is hit hard by the digital revolution. Topical issue, the 2017 edition of the Forum on the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) focused on "Exploiting the Digital Revolution for Agricultural Transformation". Speaking on one of the panels, Mastercard Vice President of International Development, Salah Goss, summed up the challenges for agriculture to invest in the digital field: "Technology has done a lot for agriculture these past five years (...) It tackles the challenges of climate change, deforestation and increasing demography. It is important that we increase production. When we think technology is to improve the living conditions of farmers.

While the African youth is massively hit by unemployment, making agriculture "cool" in the words of the President of the African Development Bank is imperative not only to feed the continent but also to convince young people that the agricultural sector has many professional opportunities. Demonstrating the importance of the digital sector in agriculture would make it more attractive to young people, who are certainly the best-equipped segment of the population to lead the digital transformation of the continent.

Digital tools are essential for the competitiveness of African agriculture. They thus make it possible to save a lot of time, to catalog the agricultural data, to reduce the arduousness of the agricultural tasks. For Michael Hailu, Director of the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), "Innovations in agriculture can contribute to enhancing food security, resilience and inclusive economic growth, especially when young people are involved in designing the future of the sector through the use of ICTs ".

Many projects flourish on the continent mixing digital and agriculture: the Agritools platform helps to give greater visibility to this phenomenon by identifying these initiatives linking innovation and agriculture, providing a window on local alternatives proposed by young African entrepreneurs.

These projects include, for example, Farm Fresh, a social enterprise that has set up an e-commerce platform, which has become the leading online food and delivery store in The Gambia. The company specializes in the sale of locally grown fresh vegetables, but also provides fruits and processed foods through partnerships with farmers and agri-food companies across the country. But also iShamba, a messaging service developed in Kenya that informs farmers in real time about possible weather warnings, market price variations and allows to receive advice from agronomists.

When we talk about digital Africa, it's the endless example of mobile banking that always comes back. It's now up to us to share the incredible opportunities that agriculture offers in the digital domain, to attract investors but also our young people to turn to African agriculture. This is how we can make agricultural growth a pillar of the continent's economic and social success.

In Port-au-Prince, EU non-response on stabilization mechanism for bananas

The 34th session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly was held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from 18 to 20 December 2017. At the AU-EU summit, agricultural issues had already been tackled, and through those there are questions about bananas. The main objective was then to emphasize to Europeans the importance of supporting Africa in transforming its agricultural model to lay the foundations for inclusive and sustainable growth. The meeting in Port-au-Prince was an opportunity to broaden the scope of the ACP and to deepen these issues by addressing more technical aspects, such as the question of maintaining the stabilization mechanism for bananas.
The Honorable Ben Abdallah Banda, a Ghanaian MP, interviewed Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.

"We have a question about the banana stabilization mechanism. This mechanism allows exporters (ACP) of bananas to be temporarily protected in case of over-supply of the European market (by Latin American producers), at the risk of dropping prices dangerously. These falls in prices particularly affect ACP producers, who depend significantly on the European market for their exports. But even in circumstances where the fall in prices was clear, the stabilization mechanism was never triggered by the European Union. We would like to know why this mechanism has never been activated. And we would also like to be reassured that, despite everything, this mechanism will be preserved in order to protect the ACP economies, some of whose export sectors are fragile because of their dependence on the European market. Thank you "

Faced with his questions, Commissioner Mimica remained rather evasive. While he insisted that the European Union has always taken into account the fragility of certain ACP export sectors, he was unable to express a clear position of the European Commission on this subject in the future. close. The European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development merely explained that discussions were underway between the Commission and the ACP countries on this shock absorption mechanism, in order to define all the modalities and criteria to use this mechanism depending on the circumstances.

This stabilization mechanism is essential for Afruibana fruit growers and exporters. This mechanism has been introduced into EU agreements with the main Latin American banana exporting countries and allows for a higher tariff when Latin American imports into the EU reach a certain threshold. Unfortunately, in the minds of Europeans, the mechanism must be used only in the event of a shock on prices and not on market shares.

In 2016, more than 70% of bananas consumed in the EU came from Latin America, while ACP production already accounts for only 18% of European consumption and only 9% of European bananas. This is all the more worrisome as Latin American bananas enjoy wide market opportunities in the United States and Canada, while the European market is the only outlet for European and ACP bananas! Access to the European market is therefore a matter of survival for ACP bananas and for the many families dependent on this crop.

The abandonment of this mechanism would open the door to the possibility of massive dumping by Latino producers. South American production could overwhelm the European market without much difficulty if ACP and European products are not protected. Today, even if the mechanism is not activated, it has a major deterrent function vis-à-vis the Latin-American producing countries.

This is why Afruibana makes the maintenance of the stabilization mechanism a priority of its demands before the European institutions. And even beyond, Afruibana defends the idea that the stabilization mechanism must consider not only price shocks but also shocks on the market shares of different producers. But for this, the European Union must reform the mechanism and especially not hesitate to implement it.

Respond to the migratory challenge through agriculture and rural development

The theme of migration has become one of the main topics discussed between Africa and Europe. During the AU-EU summit held in Abidjan at the end of November, the Libyan drama haunted all minds. Everyone has his guilty role in this humanitarian disaster: Europe, which can not overcome the security approach to migration, and Africa, which can not offer all its citizens decent living conditions.

At the High-Level Conference on Africa in the European Parliament on 22 November, Mr Owona Kono, President of Afruibana and Co-Chair of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, was invited to speak at the round table on migration, youth and human development. Dealing with all these themes in a round table may seem pretentious, but these topics are intrinsically linked.

Indeed, FAO and CIRAD estimate in a joint study that nearly 380 million young Africans, including 220 million in rural areas, will enter the labor market by 2030. Mr. Kostas Stamoulis, Assistant Director General and Head of the Economic and Social Development Department at FAO, summarizes well the issues that will arise to us in the coming years: "The challenge is to create enough jobs to absorb all this workforce. Thus, it is for all these reasons that agriculture and rural development must be an integral part of every intervention deployed to cope with major migratory movements in order to make the most of the potential of migration for the benefit of development ".

This is Afruibana's message to African and European leaders. The development of agriculture is the best way to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth while offering professional opportunities for youth. This will prevent a massive exodus of our fellow citizens to large African cities in precarious conditions, or worse, take the smugglers' routes to the shores of the Mediterranean to reach Europe. In a continent that accounts for 65% of the world's arable land, for a population that is still 50% rural, it is the best way to provide people with training and employment to earn a decent income, and stabilize.

Above all, this demographic dynamic that is often presented as a time bomb is very useful here. In fact, the agricultural labor force in sub-Saharan Africa is aging. It is time to transmit the know-how between the different generations, some bringing their expertise and others their dynamism and creativity. The involvement of youth in agriculture is all the more indispensable as it is a sector fully transformed by digital technology.

Looking to the Mediterranean is useless, it is already too late. These human dramas will only cease when we act concretely on the causes of migration. Africa needs to put in place inclusive and sustainable growth, to offer everyone a professional future in their country. Agricultural development is particularly relevant for fighting poverty. I see it every day in the banana industry, which provides thousands of jobs in Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and elsewhere. In the "territories of the fruit", the bananerais nourish an entire ecosystem where they constitute a pillar of local development. That is why I think that Africa and Europe have every interest in acting in favor of African agriculture.

African agriculture facing climate change

COP23, which ended last Friday in Bonn, is intended to remind governments and policymakers of the importance of combating global warming and placing the world on a path towards more sustainable and inclusive development.

Indeed, during the twentieth century, the temperature increased by 0.74 ° C, this situation is very alarming when we see that the average global warming rate for the last fifty years is almost double that of the hundred latest.

In addition, the African continent, which has contributed the least to this situation, is facing global warming 1.5 times higher than the global average. This climate change generates negative situations for the daily life of the inhabitants: worsening of extreme climatic phenomena: droughts, floods, hot weather, famine.

According to the global adaptation
index of Notre-Dame University (Indiana, USA), eight of the ten most vulnerable countries to climate change are African, a constraining situation when we know that the agricultural sector determines the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people. These new climate cycles increase the likelihood of poor harvests and spread various shortages and diseases.

The African continent depends on the agricultural sector. It employs about 65% of the labor force, accounting for about 25% of GDP. Global warming of about two degrees Celsius could lead to a 10 percent reduction in total agricultural output in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050, according to the Africa Adaptation gap report of the United Nations Environment Program. (UNEP). By the middle of the century, production of the major cereals in Africa, wheat, maize, sorghum and millet could fall by 17%, 5%, 15% and 10%.

To meet this challenge, it is critical that African governments and policymakers work together with civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to build a sustainable and inclusive African agricultural model.

Initiatives such as the African Platform for Contributions (Africa NDC Hub) launched on November 15 during COP 23 and administered by the AfDB, including 11 partners, illustrate this desire to bring national solutions to this global problem. .

Initiatives already exist on the continent, especially in Zambia where 61% of farmers want to mitigate the effects of climate change through the adaptation of their ecosystems using natural systems and methods of storing water. In Ghana, farmers have encouraged wild pollinators to forage for their chilli crops in order to increase yields and hasten maturation. Another example in Burkina Faso, where several farmers have developed sustainable traditional methods, such as the creation of micro-basins to revitalize soils through organic materials.

Registers of good practices are present in several African countries, their wide dissemination would be beneficial for all farmers. In addition, the growth of alternative and modern solutions promoted by startups should be encouraged. In Niger, social entrepreneur Maman Abdou Kané has developed a remote remote irrigation system that has improved the management of water and the living conditions of populations through the use of a mobile application.

As we have seen, a large number of solutions are emerging on the continent to respond to the climate emergency. It is the combination of on-the-ground efforts and the support of governments and international institutions to find concrete answers to Africa's immense challenge.


Africa: an untapped agricultural potential? 

In 2016, Africa imported nearly $ 35 billion worth of food. While the amount is already impressive, FAO points out that trends indicate that the bill will continue to increase. According to its projections, food imports by sub-Saharan Africa are expected to rise by 11 percent in 2017, reaching around $ 41 billion. A shame when you know the agricultural potential of Africa! As the president of the African Development Bank said recently, "It is Africa that should feed the world, not the other way around."

Indeed, the agricultural potential of Africa is immense. Africa has nearly 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, accounting for nearly 60% of the arable land available worldwide. The current rapid population growth on the African continent is forcing African states to invest in agriculture and to take advantage of this wealth of available land to develop local production. Agriculture and agro-industry are pillars on which Africa must rely to achieve food self-sufficiency.

Image titleWhile the agricultural sector employs nearly 70% of the African labor force and accounts for nearly 25% of GDP, agricultural yields in Africa remain lower than in other developing regions. The African Development Bank therefore focuses on two major areas: improving productivity through better integration of farmers and agro-industries in value chains, while implementing sustainable agriculture to meet in particular the challenge of climate change. Other avenues for improvement are also to be invested, notably the reduction of post-harvest agricultural losses, representing up to 30% of total production.

Far from being captured by agribusiness multinationals, Africa remains a continent where smallholders account for the vast majority of farmers. Nearly 80% of farms in Africa occupy less than two hectares according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The phenomenon of land-grabbing is often magnified because of the huge surfaces bought by multinationals or states. This phenomenon is not to be underestimated, but its scope is to be relativized although it sometimes causes tensions with local populations. The challenge is therefore to create value chains that enable smallholder farmers and agribusiness firms to create a competitive and sustainable ecosystem to lay the foundation for inclusive economic growth for Africa.

Agribusinesses in the spotlight with the 2017 World Food Prize

The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, was honored last Friday with the 2017 World Food Prize, a kind of equivalent of a Nobel Prize for agriculture. The president of the Foundation does not hesitate to call him the "Africa’s Norman Borlaug", due to the name of the founder of the Foundation who is generally credited with the paternity of the "Green Revolution".

The award of Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina is quite natural in view of his historic commitment to agricultural development and the fight against malnutrition. Born into a farmers family, he worked for the Rockefeller Foundation and was also named Vice President of Operations for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He was then Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria from 2011 to 2015 before becoming President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Ambassador Kenneth Quinn has thus hailed his decisive action in “ expanding food production in Nigeria ; introducing initiatives to exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent ” and his active leadership at the political level to transform agriculture in Africa.

The president of the African Development Bank has also pledged to spend its $ 250,000 World Food Prize money to finance young farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs to feed Africa and the world. These famous "agripreneurs" are indeed the keystone of African agriculture and sustainable growth. As President Owona recently highlights in a column, "African smallholder farmers are suffering from seeing their profession as archaic and under-productive." Yet, "these agro-entrepreneurs know all the constraints and challenges of business leaders." We can only hope that this new fund that will be set up for farmers is the beginning of a change in perception of their role in African growth and that this initiative will bring many more.


Interview with Mr. Denis Loeillet (CIRAD): “Supporting bananas production of ACP countries is in the interest of European Union”

Denis Loeillet is director of the Cirad-Persyst UR 26 Market Observatory and editor of CIRAD's FruitTrop magazine. He is a recognized expert on the banana market and takes part in the work of the Cyclope, annual report on world commodity markets.

- What are the trends in the banana market in 2017?

The trends are very mediocre, even very bad. As the Anglo-Saxon say, "it is a perfect storm". The price decline was initially violent, with a wait of almost 14 weeks in 2017 before returning to correct prices. The market then performed well for two months before falling back to relatively low levels in June and historically low in the summer and September. Since the beginning of October, we are beginning to see an improvement in the market, which is expected to continue until the end of the year.

- What are the origins of these trends?

All these trends were foreseeable because the fundamentals of the market indicate for some time already that a crisis due to an abundant supply was outlined. Prices have been good over the last decade, which has led logically to increased investment and productivity. This commodity cucle has for at least ten years been regulated by climatic hazards (cyclones, droughts, tornadoes, etc.). But in 2016, the supply has not been cut, or not enough, and we are therefore in a situation of over-supply in the market. Without climate damage in the banana plantation areas, all production potential was expressed and bottled up in European ports

Despite the major damage in Guadeloupe and Martinique in September 2017 (-70% of production compared to the last year at the beginning of October 2017), there was no inflationary effect on import-prices. It was not until the monstrous floods in the Dominican Republic and the end of the cycles of the big peaks of production (in Costa Rica and Colombia in particular) to see the price of cardboard take between 1 and 1,50 €. Still, will this be enough to trigger a bullish move? In the short term no doubt, but there is a real downward resilience.

This is not at all a crisis of under-consumption, Europeans and Americans have consumed more bananas than previous years. Consumer dynamics in Europe are very favorable, with an annual increase of 4 to 7% for several years. In the first 40 weeks of the year, compared with the previous year, imports were up to 7%. Nice score for a widely-consumed product.

- What prospects do you see for African production?

Within five years, we can expect an African supply of one million tons. In terms of volumes, the prospects are good because there are many projects to extend existing plantations but also projects of new productions, notably in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, a little less in Cameroon.

On export, it is illustrated very concretely on the European market by an increase in imports from the African continent. Looking at the Eurostat data, which was closed at 8 months at the end of August 2017, Côte d'Ivoire is already approaching the 200 000 tonnes for export to Europe (a record!), while Ghana has exported about 44 000 tonnes, compared with 34 000 tonnes a year earlier. Last year, Côte d'Ivoire had already exported 308 000 tonnes of bananas to the European Union.

If the supply potential has increased, there is also a demand for it. Since 2012, nearly 660 000 tonnes of bananas have been in addition imported into the European market. It is as if a market and a half of the size of the French market had been added to the European Union. The dynamic on the consumer side has absorbed this excess of supply but this is reflected in 2017 by a very significant drop in prices.

- What role can the European Union play in supporting the development of bananas in Africa?

Since the establishment of the single market in bananas, the European Union has always accompanied and supported the productions of ACP countries.

This was reflected mainly through two policies. First, differentiated access to the European market, with privileged access in terms of quota and customs duties. Second, a development support system (ATF or BAM program) of the banana sector aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of the sector and its diversification.

These two pillars have gradually been eroded. With regard to the first pillar, we enter into the period of negotiation of the customs duty of 75 € per tonne which Latin American competitors would like to reduce or even eliminate but which remains the last instrument to regulate European banana market. On the development pillar, the BAM (Banana Accompanying Measures) program ends, but the European Commission has not yet drawn up the lines for a new support plan.

For various reasons, it is in the EU's interest to continue to support ACP banana production. First of all, it helps to maintain a real diversity of origins in the European market, at the risk of being quickly found with only four origins of bananas. Secondly, European decision-makers should not forget the importance of the development of African rural areas, where bananas occupy little land for a sufficiently high labour intensity. It is a sector that requires a well-trained and quality workforce, an additional asset for rural areas in search of development. Agriculture in Africa is a sector that is all the more interesting as the continent is resolutely investing in agroecology.

But I would say that there is also an ethic that Europe must respect. African countries have signed cooperation agreements with Europe for a long time. There is a moral obligation to continue to support the banana sector in Africa, especially as the futur of the two continents are linked. This unraveling of the agreements between the African countries and the EU that has been going on for the last fifteen years has no meaning, either historical or economic.

- Do not the ultra-peripheral regions of the EU and African producers have an interest in joining forces against the South American giants?

They are objective allies. In terms of political defense, they are in "coopetition" - Competitors on the same markets but objective allies to defend their position as preferred suppliers of the European market. Although producers in the ultra-peripheral regions and the ACP countries are competing in the markets, they have every interest in cooperating on tariffs and the safeguard clause. Especially since these regions share the same vision of a certain agriculture, of certain origins.


Several initiatives support organic farming in Africa

Global demand for organic products is exploding around the world. This is an opportunity that Africa should not miss! But today Africa is often considered the "poor relation" of organic farming. Indeed, while the European Union is the champion of organic farming, with 5.7% of its agricultural area devoted to bio, Africa devotes only 0.1%. However, Africa has made up its mind to catch up by investing more and more in organic farming since the early 2000s.

For example, Uganda is at the forefront in the field of bio on the African continent. The National Organic Farming Movement of Uganda (Nogamu) has more than 189,000 certified farmers and is increasing its sales at the local level, whereas these products are generally intended for export.

Above all, the development of bio is an opportunity to highlight ancestral techniques and local cultures. In the Congo, for example, the "green wave" is bringing back the traditional use of leguminous cover crops (such as mucuna or angola bean). They enable small-scale farmers in rural areas to improve soil, weed-kill, remove or eliminate insects using natural methods. Congolese vegetable gardeners are also involved in training on organic formulas to be adopted, in particular through the project PAM-TAC-B (Project to support market gardening, agro-food processing and marketing of processed products in Brazzaville).

In order to give the premium to the local natural origin, the Knomana project (Knowledge management on pesticides plants in Africa) aims to identify the naturally pesticidal plants already used in Africa. Eleven countries are currently involved in this project: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and Togo. The objective is to build a database available to farmers, NGOs, researchers and thus enable the intensification of sustainable agriculture in Africa.