Authors: Gierend A and Orr A

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The report summarizes current information on consumer demand for sorghum and millets in ESA, with particular reference to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia. The analysis is based primarily on data from nationally representative household expenditure surveys for these four countries conducted between 2005 and 2012. The original data was obtained and re-analysed to determine the drivers of consumer demand for sorghum and millets. Results showed that the consumption estimates from these surveys were inconsistent with the data on the production and availability of sorghum and millets reported in national statistics.

Summary of recommendations for priority setting

Sorghum: Crop Improvement

  1. Crop improvement to meet consumer demand should focus primarily on Ethiopia, where the number of sorghum consuming households and per capita consumption are highest, and where demand is growing thanks to high population growth, the high share of household income spent on cereals, and sorghum’s competitive advantage over maize in the sorghum belt.
  2. Crop improvement to meet consumer demand in Uganda should focus on northern Uganda where sorghum production fell steeply after 2007 because of civil unrest. Peace now gives the opportunity to increase sorghum production in this region but will face strong competition from maize which has replaced sorghum in the diet.
  3. Crop improvement to meet consumer demand in Kenya and Tanzania should focus on increasing sorghum’s competitive advantage over maize as a source of household food security in the semi–arid regions where sorghum is currently grown. Consumer demand for sorghum outside these regions is static.

Sorghum: Market Development

  1. Market opportunities to increase consumer demand are limited because (1) sorghum is consumed primarily in the areas where it is grown, with limited consumption in other rural areas and in urban areas
  2. Sorghum consumption declines as incomes rise
  3. Prices are generally 20 % higher than maize, making sorghum uncompetitive as a staple food crop in urban areas and in rural areas where maize can be grown.
  4. Market development for sorghum should therefore focus not on consumer demand but on alternative uses for sorghum grain through value-chain development rather than on meeting demand from urban consumers.
  5. Market development to meet urban demand should focus on Ethiopia, where urban demand averaged 175,000 t in 2013. Opportunities for market development to meet urban demand in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda are more limited in scale.

Millets: Crop Improvement

  1. Unlike sorghum, there is consumer demand for millets outside production areas. Crop improvement should therefore focus on improving market potential for millets.
  2. To meet consumer demand, crop improvement should focus on traits that reinforce millets’ reputation among consumers as a healthier alternative to maize, principally high concentrations of iron and zinc.
  3. To facilitate commercialisation, crop improvement should focus on developing technology packages that reduce unit costs for farmers and increase profitability. Technology packages should include not just improved varieties that give higher yields, but improved crop management practices that increase the return to family labour.

Millets: Market Development

  1. Millets show high potential for market development because (1) there is consumer demand outside the semi-arid regions where millet is grown (2) consumer demand for millets rises with income (3) millets’ reputation as a health food for adults and for weaning children ensures a price premium of 40 % over maize, making it an attractive cash crop for growers.
  2. Market development should focus on urban consumers, principally middle- and high-income households, who can afford to buy millets and are receptive to health benefits.
  3. Market development for urban consumers should focus on Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda where urban demand is already high (33 %, 24 % and 17 % of domestic consumption, respectively).
  4. Despite high demand among urban consumers in Kenya, where 33 % goes to urban markets, average levels of millet consumption in urban Kenya are much lower than in neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda. This suggests there is unmet market demand for millets among urban consumers. Market development in Kenya should therefore focus on increasing supply, either through imports or raising production in western Kenya.