Sorghum and Millets in Eastern and Southern Africa : Facts, Trends and Outlook

Orr, A and Mwema, C and Gierend, A and Nedumaran, S (2016) Sorghum and Millets in Eastern and Southern Africa : Facts, Trends and Outlook. Working Paper. ICRISAT, Patancheru, Telangana, India.

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RP-Market Institutions and Policies

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This report was prepared under the HOPE project (Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of Sorghum and Millets), funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This work has been undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals. Two internal reviewers – Kai Mausch and SrigiriSrinivasa – made useful comments and suggestions. The authors are responsible for any remaining errors of fact or interpretation.


This report analyses current and projected trends for sorghum and millets in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). Cereal production in this region is dominated by maize (70%) with sorghum accounting for 7% and millets 2% of total cereal production. Between 1981 and 2012, trends in the area, production and yield of sorghum were negative for southern but positive for eastern Africa, where production doubled to reach 6 million tons. Production growth was led by Ethiopia and Somalia. Yields varied widely, from 5 t/ha in Botswana and 2 t/ha in Ethiopia to 0.3 t/ha in Zimbabwe. Sorghum was used primarily for food (64%) or food processing (14%) with 19% for other non-food uses and just 3% for animal feed. ESA was a net importer of sorghum, with Ethiopia and Sudan the largest importers, and Uganda the largest exporter. Domestic prices for sorghum were higher than world prices, which ranged from $100-200 USD per t. Despite its image as a poor man’s crop, the price of sorghum was higher than for maize in Ethiopia and Kenya, although not in Zimbabwe. Trends in the area, production and yield of millets over the same period showed weak but positive growth. Four countries – Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Uganda – accounted for the bulk of production. Strong production growth in Ethiopia was offset by negative growth in Uganda due to civil unrest. Yields varied from 1.5 t/ha in Ethiopia to 0.2 t/ha in Zimbabwe. Millets were used primarily for food (68%) and food processing (20%), with just 3% for animal feed and none for non-food uses. World prices averaged $200-400 USD per t, or twice the price of sorghum. Domestic prices were above world prices, with the relative price of millet higher than maize in Ethiopia and Kenya, though not in Zimbabwe. Trade in millets was thinner than for sorghum, with Kenya being the biggest regional importer. The East African Community allows free trade in cereals among member states but this is hindered by high transport costs and periodic export bans in drought years. Since 2004, the region has run a trade deficit in sorghum and millets. Nominal Rates of Protection between 2005 and 2012 were negative for sorghum and maize in Ethiopia, subsidizing domestic consumers, but positive or close to zero in Kenya, protecting domestic producers. Projections using the IMPACT model (International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade) show production of sorghum in ESA rising from 6.6 million t in 2015 to 19.5 million t in 2050, and from 2.3 to 7 million t for millets. By 2050 ESA is projected to change from being a net importer to being a net exporter of sorghum (2.5 million t) and millets (1.8 million t). Scenarios were run to determine the impact of higher income growth, 25% faster yield increases for sorghum, millets and maize, and climate change using climate models GFDL (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory) and MIROC (Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate). In combination, the effect is positive, increasing production of sorghum by 33% and of millets by 56% over the baseline scenario by 2050.These results suggest that in the future, sorghum and millets will play an increasingly important role in food security and trade.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Divisions: RP-Market Institutions and Policies
CRP: CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM)
Series Name: ICRISAT Research Program Markets, Institutions and Policies, Working Paper Series No. 62
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sorghum, Millets, Cereals, Southern Africa, Eastern Africa
Subjects: Mandate crops > Millets
Mandate crops > Sorghum
Depositing User: Mr Ramesh K
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2016 11:07
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2016 11:08
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