The International Food Crisis - Catastrophe or Historic opportunity for Africa? The case of Tanzanian maize

Anne Vagner Rasmussen

Studenteropgave: Speciale


Between July 2007 and June 2008 the international food commodity prices skyrocketed causing experts to declare an International Food Crisis. An international debate emerged in the wake of this crisis between spectators who argued that the situation was purely negative for third world countries and those that raised the hope that the high international prices could provide a much needed boost to the African agricultural sector. The argument was that the situation provided the fertile ground on which to build an African green revolution, like the one that swept Asia in the sixties and seventies. Africa is however a large and very diverse continent so any investigation of the merit of this hope has to be done at a much more local scale. In Tanzania the consumer price for maize has risen tremendously in the same period as the International Food Crisis rained. But are the two necessarily connected, and does the current Tanzanian development provide any merit to the hope that higher food prices will induce a transformation of the agricultural sector? This is the wonder has led me to examine the following two questions in the thesis: How is the Tanzanian market for food affected by the International Food Crisis? And how does the Tanzanian food market influence the opportunity of farmers, producing food crops for sale, to increase production in the light of the currently high national consumer prices of food? The Global Value Chain theory (GVC) and the Market Process Theory (MPT) presents to different ways of approaching the situation and integrated into the conceptual framework of the Gendered Economy the analysis is opened up to a much more gender sensitive view of the situation. As the questions posed provide the thesis with a twofold focus, they also induce two different analytical strategies. The first question is hence sought answered through quantitative empirical analysis testing the validity of the theoretical explanation provided by the MPT. It is within this part of the analysis concluded that the currently high consumer prices of maize in Tanzania apparently are not directly connected to the development of the International Food Crisis. Instead the development of international oil prices is found to have a much more direct effect on the Tanzanian price development. The second question is approached in a much more qualitative manner. The different aspects of this issue are examined in different ways through a GVC and a MPT analysis of the Tanzanian maize market. On this basis it is concluded that the vast majority of Tanzanian farmers do not appear to be able to increase production for the market under the current circumstances. Additionally female farmers appear even more prone to decrease their production of maize for the market, than their male counterparts. The conceptual tools provided by the GVC are however found to be insufficient to explain the actual makeup of the value chain for maize, and is therefore expanded by an extra variable to enable a more complete conceptual picture. The theoretical arguments of the Market Process Theory are also, despite their apparent logic on paper, found not to be working as predicted in the Tanzanian context. This thus demonstrate both the difficulty in relying on a free market to secure agricultural development and the problem with applying arguments built on the assumption of a “perfect” world to the complex and diverse African reality. Overall the analysis highlights that in order to simulation agricultural production you need to focus on the price farmers receives for their output, and not only on insuring the necessary inputs for production.

UddannelserInternationale Udviklingsstudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato30 apr. 2009


  • Market analysis
  • Tanzania
  • Maize
  • International Food Crises