While demand for wheat in the continent has multiplied over the last decades, African farmers produce enough to satisfy less than half of their countries' demands, making Africa vulnerable to global price shocks.
If all wheat-producing African countries increased their yields by only 10%, the continent would become self-sufficient, says a new report by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre.
"Our analysis shows that it is physically possible and economically profitable to grow wheat if governments … encourage farmers to diversify their crop production," Dr Bekele Shiferaw, author of the report, told dpa. "Up until now governments did not know the potential that existed for wheat."
He said the import of 35-million tons of wheat costs African countries about $12-billion a year: "The reliance on imported food has made African countries very vulnerable to the volatile food prices."
Shiferaw said that wheat production has been gravely neglected, with the 12 sub-Saharan countries that the report studied using less than 10% of their profitable wheat yield potential.
Africa grows wheat on nine-million hectares while it produces maize on more than four times as much land.
Agricultural experts are meeting this week in Addis Ababa to explore the potential of wheat production as a means to reduce food insecurity and political instability.
The analysis focused on Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. – Sapa-dpa