Saturday, December 03, 2011

The "new oil"

With food expected to become the “new oil” of the 21st century, the Standard Bank Group says Africa’s agricultural output is set for explosive growth in the coming decade.

According to a research analyst at the South African-based bank, Simon Freemantle, “There could be a doubling in African agricultural output within the next decade.”

“In China, home to 20% of the world’s population and less than 8% of its arable land, total cropland is expected to decline from 135-million hectares today, to 129-million ha in 2020. Almost half of China’s cities face water shortages. Other areas in the emerging world are even more pressed. In 2011, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were ranked as three of the four most water stressed nations in the world. Already, Gulf States import around 60% of their food, and natural water reserves are able to support only 30 more years of agricultural production.”

“Given these threats, attention is increasingly turning to Africa. It is estimated that over 60% of the world’s available and unexploited cropland is in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of Sudan’s 105-million ha of cultivable land, only 16% (or 16.6-million ha) had been cultivated by 2009. A similar ratio is evident in the DRC, where less than 10% of the country’s 80-million ha of cultivable land has been cultivated. The Congo River Basin alone holds 23% of Africa’s irrigation potential, with the Nile River Basin holding a further 19%,” he said.

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