The Chief Economist of the World Bank, Justin Yifu Lin, has said the current global food crisis can be an opportunity for African farmers.
Lin said this will depend on the country’s importers and exporters. The economist was addressing journalists in Kigali at World Bank Group headquarters recently during a three-day visit to Rwanda.
He said, “While the net exporters may benefit from the surge of prices, the net importers need to know what they are importing and so must be affected.”
The rising food and fuel prices have created a high demand for agricultural products for which Africa has the potential to produce.
In order to develop the agriculture sector, he asked the government of Rwanda and the donor community to promote the use of better agriculture technologies and incentives. He cited the incentives as improved seeds and fertilizers.
“If all this is done, I think the surge in food prices can be an opportunity to promote agriculture development in Rwanda,” he said.
Rwanda’s swift reaction towards scaling up food production impressed Lin. He was referring to a recent $10 m special facility fund o import chemical fertilisers.
The current move by farmers countrywide to improve their technologies and access to markets also impressed the World Bank economist.
Lin’s comments come at a time the World Development Report 2008 is calling for greater investment in agriculture in developing countries.
The report says that the sector must be placed at the center of the development agenda if the goals of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 are to be realized.
Lin however said that the increase in food prices has forced the World Bank to revise its financing strategy in the agriculture.
The bank has doubled its investment in the sector. He cautioned that if Rwanda and other African nations are to reach the level of middle income, then the non farm industrialisation will be very important.
“And the way to do it in the industrialization side may start with import substitution,” he said, urging African nations to cut import costs by locally producing some of the products they import.