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Exploiting opportunities in intra-regional trade in food staples in COMESA region


  • Wanjiku, Julliet
  • Ogada, Maurice Juma
  • Guthiga, Paul
  • Karugia, Joseph Thuo
  • Massawe, Stella
  • Wambua, Jonesmus


Shrinking productive land coupled with climate change has led to rising food insecurity in COMESA region. The situation has been exacerbated by the rise in food prices as witnessed in the vast majority of COMESA member countries and elsewhere in the world. Intra-regional trade in food staples offers prospects for enhancing food security through cross border trade and movement of food from surplus to deficit areas. The objective of the current study is to analyze the opportunities available in intra-regional trade in food staples in COMESA region. Using data for selected countries in COMESA region, the study finds that, while some countries, or even some regions within the same country, are food surplus, others are food deficit and literally lacking food to buy in some seasons. This creates a framework for a win-win situation—the food surplus countries/regions could get better prices for their products by selling to food deficit countries/regions while food deficit countries/regions could avoid food shortages and extreme food price volatility by allowing inflow of food staples from surplus countries/region. The regional diversity, differential rainfall patterns across the countries coupled with the phenomenon of staggered harvesting due to spatial climatic variability has and will continue to be major stimulus for cross-border trade from food surplus areas in one country to food deficit areas in neighboring countries. The study also finds that a more liberalized cross-border trade leads to reduced price volatility. Further, the analysis of the results shows that trade in staples has grown rapidly in the recent past in the COMESA region. Consequently the impacts of regional trade in food staples in the region cannot be debated. The region is also faced with numerous tariff/non-tariff barriers, poor infrastructure and lack of market information which translates to increased transaction costs. The study recommends a regional approach to enhance food security and agricultural growth, rather than a national isolated approach. There is need for a clear follow up and monitoring of the implemented COMESA commitment of eliminating NTBs and prevention of entry of new NTBs. Regional approach is highly advocated to elimination of the NTBs as they are similar across countries in addition to investment in improved infrastructure.

Suggested Citation

  • Wanjiku, Julliet & Ogada, Maurice Juma & Guthiga, Paul & Karugia, Joseph Thuo & Massawe, Stella & Wambua, Jonesmus, 2012. "Exploiting opportunities in intra-regional trade in food staples in COMESA region," 2012 Conference, August 18-24, 2012, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil 126424, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:iaae12:126424

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Haggblade, Steven & Jayne, Thomas S. & Tschirley, David L. & Longabaugh, Steven, 2008. "Potential for Intra-Regional Maize Trade in Southern Africa: an Analysis for Zambia at the Sub-National Level," Food Security Collaborative Working Papers 54494, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.
    2. Karugia, Joseph Thuo & Wanjiku, Julliet & Gbegbelegbe, Sika & Nzuma, Jonathan M. & Massawe, Stella & Macharia, Eric & Freeman, H. Ade & Waithaka, Michael M. & Kaitibie, Simeon & Gulan, Ayele, 2009. "The impact of non-tariff barriers on maize and beef trade in East Africa," 2009 Conference, August 16-22, 2009, Beijing, China 51672, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Tschirley, David L. & Abdula, Danilo Carimo, 2007. "Toward Improved Marketing and Trade Policies to Promote Household Food Security in Central and Southern Mozambique: 2007 Update," Food Security Collaborative Working Papers 56068, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.
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    COMESA; Food staples; Trade; International Relations/Trade;

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