Agriculture in Cameroon

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Agriculture in Cameroon is an industry that has plenty of potential.


Agriculture was the main source of growth and foreign exchange until 1978 when oil production replaced it as the cornerstone of growth for the formal economy. In 2004, agriculture contributed 44 percent to GDP. Agricultural development and productivity declined from neglect during the oil boom years of the early 1980s. Agriculture was the principal occupation of 56 percent of the economically active population in 2003, although only about 15.4 percent of the land was arable.


Potato field in Bamboutos
Palm kernels in Tayap

The most important cash crops are cocoa, coffee, cotton, bananas, rubber, palm oil and kernels, and peanuts. The main food crops are plantains, cassava, corn, millet, and sugarcane. Palm oil production has shown signs of strength, but the product is not marketed internationally. Cameroon bananas are sold internationally, and the sector was reorganized and privatized in 1987. Similarly, rubber output has grown in spite of Asian competition. Cameroon is among the world's largest cocoa producers; 130,000 tons of cocoa beans were produced in 2004. Two types of coffee, robusta and arabica, are grown; production was 60,000 tons in 2004. About 85,000 hectares (210,000 acres) are allocated to cotton plantations. Some cotton is exported, while the remainder is processed by local textile plants. Total cotton output was 109,000 tons in 2004. Bananas are grown mainly in the southwest; 2004 estimated production was 630,000 tons. The output of rubber, also grown in the southwest, was 45,892 tons in 2004. Estimated production in 2004 of palm kernels and oil was 64,000 and 1,200,000 tons, respectively. For peanuts (in the shell) the figure was 200,000 tons. Small amounts of tobacco, tea, and pineapples are also grown.

Estimated 2004 production of food crops was as follows: sugarcane, 1,450,000 tons; cassava, 1,950,000 tons; sorghum, 550,000 tons; corn, 750,000 tons; millet, 50,000 tons; yams, 265,000 tons; sweet potatoes, 175,000 tons; potatoes, 135,000 tons; dry beans, 95,000 tons; and rice, 62,000 tons.

Agriculture remains the backbone of Cameroon's economy, employing 70 percent of its workforce, while providing 42 percent of its GDP and 30 percent of its export revenue. Blessed with fertile land and regularly abundant rainfall in most regions, Cameroon produces a variety of agricultural commodities both for export and for domestic consumption. Coffee and cocoa are grown in central and southern regions, bananas in South west region, and cotton in several parts of Northern regions. In addition to export commodities, Cameroonian farmers produce numerous subsistence crops for family consumption. Principal food crops include millet, sorghum, peanuts, plantains, sweet potatoes, and manioc. Animal husbandry is practiced throughout the country and is particularly important in Northern region. (Encyclopedia of the Nations » Africa » Cameroon) According to a document jointly published in 2007 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER), and that of Fishery, Livestock and Animal Husbandry (MINEPIA); in recent years, food production did not follow the rapid demographic increase, especially in the urban areas. According to these ministries, food security has to be assured by an increase in the production of food stuff and other crops which could substitute importations. To meet these needs, these ministries have as an objective for a sector’s development strategy, set a target in 2015 to train 30.000 farmers per year. MINADER has 35 centres for agricultural training (24 are rural training centres and 11 are centres for the training of young farmers). Furthermore, these two ministries are actually offering training in the rural development sector like extension agents, agricultural advisers and professional farmer groupings (farmers’ organisations) The Government, faced with the effects of the financial crisis, has taken steps to boost production of commodities such as corn, rice, cassava, potato, oil palm and plantain. For food crops, these measures aim to improve commercialisation products through the construction of warehouses for conservation. In 2009, the agricultural sector accounted for approximately 75.6% of primary industry with 68.8% for food and agriculture 6.8% for export crops. This sub-sector increased by 8.3% compared to 2008, contributing 0.7 percentage point to growth actual primary sector. (Institut National de la Statistique – Annuaire Statistique du Cameroun 2010) In 2009, the government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development intends to implement an emergency plan to increase agricultural production. This plan aims to provide farmers planting material; subsidize pesticides and fertilizer from 20 to 50%, grant loans at low interest rates, create five pools of agricultural machinery support up to 15%, acquire about a hundred tractors and increase the capacity of processing, storage and packaging. All this will lead to improved agricultural production. The National Agricultural Extension and Agricultural Research (PNVRA) through outreach activities conducted by Extension Agents Zone (AVZ) provide technical guidance and sometimes financial farmers. (Institut National de la Statistique – Annuaire Statistique du Cameroun 2010) In March 2012, “Cameroun Tribune” published an article on the eve of the launching of the 2012 farming season in Cameroon, stating that apart from some few mechanised industrial exploitations, agriculture in Cameroon is essentially traditional. With subsistence agriculture, manual work is usually very arduous, the cultivated surface area is also reduced, and yields are low and therefore insufficient to meet both domestic and external demand for food. This article reveals that Cameroon is forced to import large quantities of cereals (rice, maize) to fill the gap in production, feed its population and meet the demands of the brewing industries. That is why during the agro pastoral show in Ebolowa, President Paul Biya stressed the need to modernised Cameroon’s agriculture, so as to increase the productivity of small farmers and encourage the emergence of “second generation” production units; that is to say large and medium size companies. In this perspective, the mechanisation of agriculture must be a fact, given the multiplier effect of machines in the chain of production.

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 This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website