Analysis of the effects of maize trade restrictions in the COMESA region on food prices and market development

By Nicholas J. Sitko, Auckland N. Kuteya and Brian Chisanga

For many countries in the COMESA region white maize serves as both the national staple food and the primary crop grown by smallholders. It, therefore, plays a central role in the region’s strategy for promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, and improving food security. In the COMESA region, approximately 13 million hectares of land are devoted to maize production annually. Yet, with average yields of around 2 metric tonnes per hectare, the overall production of maize remains well below total regional demand. Figure 1 presents aggregate trends in the COMESA region for maize imports and the costs of these imports. Between 2005 and 2011 the combined net imports of maize by the 20 member countries of COMESA averaged 6 million metric tonnes per year (FAOStat). After accounting for the value of exports, the average net annual import bill for maize in the COMESA region is approximately US$ 1.1 billion (FAOStat).

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