Global Markets: Wheat – Sub-Saharan Consumption Outpacing Production; Pushes Imports Higher

Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Kay Ledbetter

Demand for wheat in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has expanded dramatically in recent years. In addition to rapid population growth, per capita consumption is also trending higher, driven by urbanization, changing tastes, and rising incomes.

In countries such as Nigeria and Ethiopia, wheat consumption is rising as consumers switch from local staples such as cassava, millet, and teff.

Production, on the other hand, has grown but continues to fall short of consumption. The climate in most SSA countries is too warm for wheat, making it a very minor crop on the continent.

Among them, Ethiopia is the most self-sufficient, typically producing about 80 percent of the wheat it consumes. Ethiopia produces more than half of the region’s total wheat production, with South Africa, Kenya, and Sudan accounting for most of the remainder.

Many countries in the region have increasingly relied on imports to fulfill growing demand. Total imports for the region have expanded by about 50 percent in 7 years. Most of the SSA wheat trade is in the form of grain, but imports of flour and products have also picked up, now accounting for nearly 20 percent of the region’s imports.

Turkey’s flour exports to SSA have quadrupled in 6 years with the largest regional markets being Sudan and Angola. SSA’s share of global wheat imports stands at over 10 percent now, a portion that seems likely to expand if growth in wheat demand continues at the same pace.

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At the same time, the share of imports coming from the United States has dropped from roughly a third down to just over 10 percent. This shift is most evident in Nigeria, where the United States lost market share to lower-priced Russian and EU wheat amid economic challenges in the country.

Similarly, U.S. exports to South Africa have also trended lower in the face of rising competition. Notably, some of the U.S. exports to the region, particularly to Ethiopia, come in the form of food aid. Hard Red Winter comprises the majority of U.S. exports to the region.

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