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Author(s):  Jayne; Mukumbu; Chisvo; Tschirley; Zulu; Weber; Johansson; Santos; Soroko

Governments in Eastern and Southern Africa have fundamentally transformed their food economies over the past decade. This restructuring has taken place amidst severe macroeconomic crises and periodic drought. Despite the accumulation of empirical analyses showing that the food market reforms have generated some impressive achievements, these conclusions remain controversial and contested by important policymakers in each country in the region. The reforms have created acute political dilemmas for governments amidst protests to protect important groups whose interests are perceived to have been threatened by the reforms.

As a result, policymakers have faced difficult decisions in defining a consistent and effective role for the state in the newly emerging food marketing systems.

The major challenges facing policymakers in the region are:

1. How to design agricultural marketing systems to better serve as a catalyst for farm productivity growth, particularly for smallholders;
2. How to cost-effectively deal with price instability for both consumers and producers in the newly liberalized marketing system in a manner that limits governments’ exposure to political risks;

3. How to develop the commitment to a consistent and stable policy environment to support long run private investment and insulate the new systems from disruptive
policy lurches in response to short-term political crises;

4. How to design a process of collaboration between policymakers, donors, researchers, and the private sector to maximize the probability of achieving improved agricultural policy and performance.

Arching over each of these challenges is the need to better understand how to stimulate investment in the food system by the private sector. What kinds of incentives do the private sector positively respond to? And, conversely, what kinds of actions have been shown to impede private sector investment? The need for a better understanding of how government actions affect private incentives may be critical to avoid situations in which perceptions that “the private sector will not respond” become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This paper describes the different food policy courses pursued in recent years by four countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, and documents their differential effects on farmer and consumer behavior. Results are based primarily on a survey and synthesis of recent analysis. The paper highlights lessons learned from the different policy paths pursued in each country, and thus provides insights into the costs and benefits of alternative strategies for promoting national food security and enhancing producer and consumer options.

The paper also identifies key “second generation” constraints that continue to impede national food security objectives and discusses potential strategies for overcoming them.

Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Zambia were among the last in Africa to liberalize their staple food sectors, and perhaps face the most serious challenges in overcoming historically entrenched controls on food marketing in Africa. While initially implementing similar maize marketing reforms at approximately the same time during the early 1990s, these countries have in recent years taken strikingly different policy paths, with Kenya’s reform process moving beyond that of Zimbabwe or Zambia in its comprehensiveness.

By late 1998, Kenya’s food policy environment was more similar to Mozambique, which undertook food market reforms earlier and more extensively than the other countries. Zimbabwe and Zambia, on the other hand, represent cases where the state has retained a major role in various food marketing functions and where the commitment to a liberalized market-oriented system appears weakest.

Successes And Challenges of Food Market Reform: Experiences From Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, And Zimbabwe

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