Food Remittances: Migration and Food Security in Africa
Cash remittances have grown rapidly over the past two decades and are now at an all-time high. The World Bank estimates that international remittances reached USD436 billion in 2014, and predicts that they will increase to USD601 billion in 2016. Studies of remitting practices and impacts often define remittances to include both cash and in-kind (goods) goods. But they invariably ignore the volume, value and impacts of international goods (including food) remitting. When it comes to internal migration, the growing literature on urban-rural linkages might be expected to focus on both cash and goods remitting by migrants. However, once again far more attention has been paid to cash than food remitting. There is considerable evidence from across the African continent that a significant proportion of cash remittances to rural areas is spent on food. However, bidirectional food remitting – its drivers, dimensions and impacts – is an underdeveloped research and policy area. This report therefore reviews the current state of knowledge about food remittances in Africa and aims to make a number of contributions to the study of the relationship between migration and food security. The first section of this report focuses on cross-border food remitting in Africa. Across the continent, there is considerable evidence of a massive informal trade in food, including staples, fresh and processed products. Though informal in nature, most cross-border trade in foodstuffs is a result of commercial transactions by small-scale traders who buy in one country and sell in another. However, not all of the foodstuffs that cross borders informally is destined for markets and purchase by urban and rural consumers. An unknown proportion is actually food remittances on their way from migrants to kin in their country of origin.