The performance of the food production sector in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is critical for a number of reasons. Domestic production is the principal avenue to ensuring access to affordable food in poor countries with limited capacity to import food. The multiplier effect of sustainable food production on the economy is considerable as it has direct linkage with other activities such as transportation, marketing, tourism and local trade. In countries where the growth of food production outpaces demand, social and political harmony as well as macroeconomic stability can be maintained, paving the way for sustained economic growth. This paper examines changes in food production performance among 30 SSA countries over the period of 1968 to 2008. The results support previous findings that not many countries have managed to achieve a food production growth rate in excess of 3% per annum. Annual food production performance averaged 3% or more in 60% of the sample countries following the policy reforms. Nevertheless, rates of output growth varied from one period to the other and the recent improved performances were achieved not only through unsustainable expansion of land under cultivation, but also failed to satisfy the rapidly growing food demand. With domestic supply lagging behind, most countries have experienced unaffordable food import bills. Addressing political instability and building institutions that foster partnership between governments, farmers, traders and other operators along the food value chain to address market failures and inefficiencies in input, output, credit and risk managementis critical to ensure food availability, accessibility and stability in SSA.
Key words: Sub-Saharan Africa, food production performance, food security.
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