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March 16, 2009

Food crisis cost West Africa 475 million euros

Africa's food crisis, which saw prices skyrocket in 2008, cost the region 475 million euros in lost revenue, according to the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).

The figure applied to the UEMOA's eight member states -- Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo -- said Jean Ndeye of the group's commission, which is based in Ouagadougou.

"We can say that the revenue losses for all our states due to the measures taken to face the food crisis come to some 300 billion CFA francs (475 million euros)," said Ndeye.

In a bid to cushion the population from the crisis many West African states subsidized certain essential foodstuffs or gave tax and customs duty exemptions for food imports, he added.

"These budgetary measures, you have to be able to take responsibility for them and for that you need to have resources," Ndeye said.

The UEMOA said none of the member states had been able to respect the regional agreement to keep inflation under 3.0 percent.

The crisis had forced inflation in the the eight-member zone up from 2.0 percent in 2007 to 7.4 percent in 2008, Ndeye said.

"The measures taken by the governments call into question the policies of harmonisation at the UEMOA, notably in the case of fiscal harmonisation," he warned.

The food crisis in 2008 prompted violent protests in several countries in the region including Senegal, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast where one person was killed during the demonstrations.

All the UEMOA's eight member states share a common currency.


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