A new report released on Wednesday says non-tariff barriers, high trading costs and a lack of product diversification are the biggest impediments to Africa’s agricultural trade performance. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG  -  A new report released on Wednesday says non-tariff barriers, high trading costs and a lack of product diversification are the biggest impediments to Africa’s agricultural trade performance.

Africa Agriculture Trade Monitor 2019 is the result of a collaborative initiative between the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation.

It examines the effectiveness of efforts to increase regional trade integration and intra-African trade and the potential impact of broader integration on Africa’s trade performance in light of emerging global protectionism.

“At a time when the global trade system is facing new threats, we hope this report will provide policy actors with the tools they need to position Africa effectively to better engage in and benefit from agricultural trade,” IFPRI director general Shenggen Fan said.

“Given the push for deeper integration gaining momentum in Africa, this report is timely indeed.”

The report, presented during a panel on regional food trade policy at the African Green Revolution Forum in Ghana, shows that the continent's share of world agricultural trade grew only marginally from 4.3 percent to five percent between 2005 and 2017.

Africa’s agricultural trade deficit has been on the decline since 2012, even as growth in agricultural imports has continued to outpace export growth.

While the region's comparative advantage in agricultural products has strengthened in recent years, that advantage has largely been limited to unprocessed and semi-processed products rather than processed goods.

Agricultural commodities with the highest comparative advantage are cocoa, cotton, fish and fish products, fruits, legumes and tea. Implementation of the recently-launched African Continental Free Trade Area is expected to help diversify agriculture towards more processed goods. 

“The report makes clear that the AfCFTA is central to addressing many of the policy challenges associated with economic integration and agricultural trade that African countries face today,” IFPRI’s director for Africa Ousmane Badiane said.

“By reducing all trading costs, AfCFTA has the potential to spur growth through intra-regional trade expansion, thus improving food security, diversifying the production base, and helping African producers to move up value chains."

- African News Agency (ANA)