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Nigerian President Criticizes Western, African Farming Policies - 2004-04-01

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo blasted Western countries for driving Africa's agricultural exports out of the world markets with high farm subsidies. But, speaking at an international food security conference in Kampala, he also blamed Africa's governments for contributing to food insecurity in Africa.

President Obasanjo, in his speech to the conference, slammed developed countries for their trade policies, which, he said, make it difficult for African exporters to compete on the world's markets.

He said subsidies for European cows are double of what people in many African countries have to survive on.

But Mr. Obasanjo also blamed African governments for bad agricultural policies, wars, poor management and lack of research, all of which he said contribute to hunger and malnutrition in Africa.

Director of the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute, Mark Rosegrant, warned African and international decision-makers that the gap between supply and demand for food in Africa will widen unless they change their policies.

He told the conference child malnutrition in Africa can be eliminated in the next two decades if investment in agriculture, education, and basic infrastructure is doubled now.

"The choices we make today can make a huge difference," he said. "Through increasing investments and improving policy, we can reduce the number of malnourished children. In fact, our projections show by 2030 to 2035, it could eliminate child malnutrition in Africa through the kinds of policies and investment reform that we're recommending here."

He said the demand for cereal grains in sub-Saharan Africa will likely double by 2020, and meat consumption will almost triple to 13 million tons in 2020.

Under the governments' current policies, Mr. Rosegrant warned, supply of basic food will fall far short of demand and the number of malnourished children will grow from 37 million today to 44 million in 2020.

Mr. Rosegrant called for developed countries to increase their investment in Africa's industries and reduce agricultural price subsidies that harm farm production in Africa.