According to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures, sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions for US agricultural exports, driven by a strong economic outlook, a growing middle class and surging demand for consumer-oriented foods. Over the past decade, US agricultural exports to the region have grown by more than 50%, the USDA said, totalling $2.3bn in 2014. Last year, the US exported record levels of poultry meat and prepared foods to sub-Saharan Africa.
Top sub-Saharan Africa markets for US agricultural and related products last year included Nigeria ($883m), Angola ($300m) South Africa ($298m), Ghana ($151m), Kenya ($87m) and Ethiopia ($83m).
The trade mission will take place from 17-20 November and companies can apply to go via the USDA website.
“Two years ago, I led a mission to southern Africa to launch the USDA’s Sub-Saharan Africa Trade Initiative, which aims to expand US agricultural and commercial ties in the region,” said Harden. “I am excited to return to Africa with a new group of US agricultural leaders to further explore market opportunities, especially for small, minority and women-owned businesses.”
The delegation will meet with potential customers from more than a dozen countries, forging relationships and learning about the market conditions and business environment in the region. This first-hand intelligence will help them develop strategies to start or expand sales to these key markets.
Participants will include representatives from companies representing a wide array of food and agricultural products, as well as leaders from state departments of agriculture and agricultural organisations.
One potential complicating factor is the current disagreement between the US and South Africa over the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA). Under the arrangement, certain African countries can export to the US duty-free. In exchange for the renewal of this arrangement earlier in 2015, South Africa agreed to lift the 15-year-long ban on US bone-in chicken imports, which was imposed to prevent the US exporting vast quantities of poultry and undercutting domestic producers.
However, the US is still not able to export its poultry to South Africa, more than three months after the deal was signed, and with an avian influenza-related blanket ban in place it is hard to see when this will change. Earlier this month Michael Froman, US trade representative, threatened suspending South Africa from the AGOA scheme unless this was rectified. “Without swift action, South Africa risks losing important tariff benefits under AGOA,” he said.
Whether this will form part of the discussions in Accra is at this stage unclear.