Successes and Challenges of Food Market Reform: Experiences from Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

January 2, 1999 - Author: T.S. Jayne, Mulinge Mukumbu, Munhamo Chisvo, <>, <>, Ballard Zulu, Robert Johansson, Paula Santos, and David Soroko

IDWP 72.T.S. Jayne, Mulinge Mukumbu, Munhamo Chisvo, David Tschirley, Michael T. Weber, Ballard Zulu, Robert Johansson, Paula Santos, and David Soroko. 1999. 45 pp. Successes and Challenges of Food Market Reform: Experiences from Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

Governments in Eastern and Southern Africa have fundamentally transformed their food
economies over the past decade. 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 a liberalized marketing system; (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; and (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 over time. A
key feature of each of these challenges is the need for a better understanding of how to stimulate
private investment in the food system. 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.


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