Agriculture is a key sector of Benin's economy, accounting for 26.9% of the country's GDP. However, most of the production is accounted for by subsistence farming, and only a small part of the products produced is represented on the domestic market.
The low efficiency of agriculture due to the lack of modern equipment and the lack of developed irrigation systems makes Benin dependent on imported food supplies.
Crop production in Benin
The basis of the country's agriculture is crop production. Most of the products grown are vegetables, root crops and tubers, the total production in 2021 amounted to 8,131.0 thousand tons, which is 1.9% more than 2020. The most common crop is cassava, production in 2021 amounted to 4,219.0 thousand tons. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Benin, in 2022 the volume of cassava grown increased by 3.1%, amounting to 4,350.1 thousand tons. A large amount of yams is also grown in the country. The average annual growth rate of production of this crop for 2018-2022 was 2.2%, and by 2022 the indicator reached 3,214.9 thousand tons. Grain production in 2021 amounted to 2,308.9 thousand tons, an increase of 4.8% compared to 2020. About 70% of this product category is corn. Nevertheless, according to the Ministry, in 2022 the grain harvest decreased by 0.5%, amounting to 2,297.4 thousand tons, of which 1,619.6 thousand tons were corn and 525.0 thousand tons — rice. In addition, the country is actively increasing the production of soybeans. The average annual growth rate of this indicator in 2018-2022 was 8.4%, and by 2022 the volume of grown products amounted to 306.2 thousand tons.
Benin's main source of income from agriculture is cotton production. In 2021, the volume of production amounted to 766.3 thousand tons, which is 4.8% more than in 2020. The average annual growth rate for 2017-2021 was 6.4%. According to FAO, Benin is the largest cotton producer in Africa. However, there are no processing facilities in the country to extract added value from the cotton industry. Almost all of the cotton produced is exported raw, mainly to Bangladesh. Nevertheless, in recent years, Benin has been implementing measures to develop the existing capacity of the processing industry in order to increase the share of cotton processed domestically.
Animal Husbandry in Benin
Milk production in 2021 amounted to 120.7 thousand tons, which is 22.8% less than 2020. About 75-80% is cow's milk. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Benin, 79.7 thousand tons of meat were produced in the country in 2021, which is 2.7% more than in 2020. Most of it is beef, but poultry, pork and other types of meat are also produced in the country. A significant amount of meat in Benin is produced in private farms. Due to low labor productivity and high cost of domestic production, the country does not provide itself with livestock products and is a net importer of poultry meat - the main and cheapest source of protein for local residents.
Fishing in Benin
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Benin, the production of fish and seafood in 2021 amounted to 76.9 thousand tons, which is 6.7% less than 2020. Industrial fishing and aquaculture are poorly developed in the country, most of the production is provided by small-scale fishing.
Import of agricultural products
Benin is a net importer of agricultural products. By the end of 2022, Benin imported agricultural products worth US$ 1.16 billion, which is 4.2% lower than the level of 2021. The maximum volume of food purchases on foreign markets was in 2018 — US$ 1.58 billion.
In the structure of imports of agricultural products of Benin in value terms in 2022, the largest share fell on rice (57.3% of imports), poultry meat (9.5%) and frozen fish (8.6%). In total, the top 10 imported products accounted for 90.1% of imports of agricultural products.
In 2022, the most significant increase compared to 2021 was observed in the supply of rice (+3.9% or +184.1 million US dollars) and wheat (+95.8% or +18.5 million US dollars). At the same time, there was a significant decrease in the supply of palm oil by 39.6% (-30.7 million US dollars) and wheat flour by 67.0% (-30.6 million US dollars).
In 2022, the main suppliers of agricultural products to Benin were India (36.6% of value imports), Thailand (12.4%) and the UAE (4.0%). In total, the top 10 countries accounted for 72.9% of the value of imports of agricultural products of Benin.
Exports of agricultural products from Thailand increased most significantly in 2021-2022 (by 45.3% or +44.9 million US dollars) and India (by 4.8% or +19.6 million US dollars).
Both countries increased rice exports in 2022: Thailand by 45.4% (+44.9 million US dollars) and India by 4.3% (+17.1 million US dollars). At the same time, shipments from the UAE (by 42.2% or -34.2 million US dollars) and Turkey (by 49.7% or -29.7 million US dollars) significantly decreased.
The UAE reduced rice exports to Benin by 43.6% (-34.0 million US dollars), Turkey exported less wheat flour by 70.1% (-27.3 million US dollars).
Export of agricultural products
Benin's agricultural exports have been declining for the 4th year in a row. In 2022, the volume of exports amounted to 147.7 million US dollars, which is 15.9% lower than in 2021. For 2018-2022, the country's exports decreased annually by an average of 16.7%.
It is noted that there is an established informal trade channel between Benin and Nigeria, through which agricultural goods are sold that are not shown in official statistics. The main products of the agriculture within the framework of this informal trade turnover are cotton, cashew nuts and rice.
The basis of exports of agricultural products of Benin in 2022 were cashew nuts (22.0% of value exports), cotton seeds (19.6%) and cake and meal from cotton seeds (19.5%) — three goods accounted for 61.1% of exports. In total, the top 10 products accounted for 89.7% of value exports. Exports of cotton seeds increased most significantly in 2022 (+73.8% or +12.3 million US dollars) and cottonseed oil (2.9 times or +7.0 million US dollars). The most significant reduction was demonstrated by the supply of other oilseeds (by 47.6% or -11.6 million US dollars).
The main importer of agricultural products from Benin is India: in 2022, it accounted for 32.8% of the value of exports of agricultural products of Benin.
Togo (12.9%), Nigeria (7.8%) and Denmark (7.4%) also purchased significant volumes of products. In total, ten countries accounted for 85.5% of Benin's agricultural exports.
Compared to 2021, the most significant increase in the volume of purchases of agricultural products from Benin fell on Togo (4.1 times or 14.4 million US dollars) and Nigeria (2.2 times or 6.3 million US dollars). Benin increased exports of cotton seeds to Togo by 5.3 times to 13.0 million US dollars and cotton oil to Nigeria by 3.1 times to 8.4 million US dollars. At the same time, there was a decrease in exports to India by 22.2% (-13.8 million US dollars) and Denmark by 53.7% (-12.7 million US dollars). Benin reduced the supply of cashew nuts (by 30.5% or -10.2 million US dollars) and sunflower oil (by 73.1% or -6.5 million US dollars). USA) to India, as well as other oilseeds (by 53.7% or -12.7 million US dollars) to Denmark.