1. West Africa: Rising cereal prices welcomed by farmers, but raise concern among authorities, written by Idy Sy Diop, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Dakar

| December 17, 2007

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Following a global market trend, grain prices in some West African countries have increased, despite a concurrent increase in production.

Rice producers in the Senegal River Valley who have just started collecting their harvests for 2007-2008 noted the rise in prices with satisfaction.

Djiby Diaw, the head of a farmers’ association in the Senegal River Valley, told Farm Radio Weekly that the trends are promising and the yields are normal. He said that the price of unshelled rice currently varies between 9,000 and 10,000 FCFA (up to 22 US dollars or 15 Euros) per 85 kilogram bag. This is almost twice what farmers were receiving in previous years, when prices ranged between 5,000 and 6,000 FCFA (up to 13 US dollars or 9 Euros).

Mr. Diaw says that farmers in his region do not know all the reasons that grain prices have risen, but they will be happy if the prices stay at the higher level.

Figures provided by the government of Burkina Faso show that prices there have risen more modestly in some provinces: up 22 per cent for white maize, 12 per cent for sorghum, and 11 per cent for millet. However, the authorities state that these price increases have only happened in provinces where production deficits were reported.

Salife Diallo is the Burkinabe Minister of Agriculture. He has accused corrupt traders of being behind increases in provinces where cereal production is sufficient.

The governments of both Senegal and Burkina Faso view these increases as a cause for concern. Higher prices can make locally grown grains inaccessible to the poor, especially at a time when the prices of imported cereals such as rice and wheat are steadily climbing.

The latest figures provided by the Inter-state Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel – whose member states are mostly West African countries – show that approximately 15 million tons of cereals were produced in 2007. This represents an increase of nearly 17 per cent over the average for the past five years.