Opportunities for Indian Companies in Food Processing in Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Cabo Verde: Post Webinar report

Table of Contents

Senegal 1

The Gambia. 1

Guinea-Bissau. 1

Cabo Verde. 1

Opportunities / challenges. 1

Webinar, 3 July 2020. 1

Way forward. 1



The four countries of Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde lie within the jurisdiction of the Embassy of India in Dakar, Senegal. These countries are located in West Africa, and in fact, Dakar is the western-most point of Africa. Of these, Senegal is the largest country with the maximum population, estimated to be 16 million, in an area approx 197000 sq kms. Cabo Verde is the smallest, with an area of 4,033 sq kms and a population of approx 550,000.

India has been the largest trading partner of Senegal, and imports almost the entire cashew crop of Guinea-Bissau. The land resources of these four countries also offer a very diverse picture, with The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau having fertile lands, Senegal having arable lands mainly in the South and the Senegal River valley, whereas Cabo Verde has lesser availability of arable lands and also faces the challenges of water for irrigation. The major crops grown here (Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau but excepting Cab Verde) are groundnuts, the coarse grains (millet, maize, and sorghum), as well as rice, sesame, findo. Cabo Verde, given limited arable land and water for irrigation is focussing on producing fresh vegetables and fruits only.        

All these countries are heavily dependent upon agriculture as their primary industry, and source of employment, as the majority of the farms are family owned. The agro-industry in this region here is limited because the vast majority of the perishable farm produce, vegetables and fruits virtually have no value addition after their production, owing to lack of availability of food processing or storage. The agricultural produce is mostly consumed / exported in their primary condition and being perishable, a lot of the agri produce is wasted.

The state of the food processing industries in these four countries, along with some challenges are given below in detail.


Although only 16.62 % of the land is arable, agriculture employs 32% of the workforce and contributes to 16.6% of the GDP. Senegal's main crops are peanuts, black-eyed peas, cassava, watermelons, millet, rice and corn. Fishing is also an important source of revenue.

Even though millet or barnyard is one of the widely produced and consumed crop in Senegal, production has decreased in this part of the world owing to the vagaries of the climate, creating needs for imports. Although the 2019 cereal production is estimated at an aboveaverage level, import requirements in the 2019/20 marketing year (November/October) are forecast at an aboveaverage level of 2.3 million tonnes. Moringa, widely available here, with its nutritional value has potential to become a niche product for processing and trade.

The industrial sector contributes to 25.8% of the GDP and employs 14% of the workforce. It is based essentially on the production of fertilizers and phosphoric acid - which is sent to India, as well as peanut processing (oil and cattle meal) and seafood processing (despite a growing depletion in resource). The most important industrial segment is food production, followed by textiles and chemical industries.

The food-processing industry in Senegal is the second most developed among West African countries, after Côte d’Ivoire. The industry employs about half the people working in Senegalese industries and two-thirds of seasonal workers. Eighty per cent of total agro-industrial firms in the formal sector are located in the Dakar area. These agro-industrial firms benefit from proximity to the port of Dakar, rapid transportation and access to credit. Most of them are linked to a foreign firm which provides them with access to foreign capital and technology. Two broadly defined sectors dominate the food-processing industry in Senegal. One is export oriented (groundnut oils and canned fish), and the other serves the domestic market (tomato concentrates, sugar refining, flour milling, soda water, beer and other beverages, milk powder). However, the growth of the food-processing industry has been very weak owing to poor performance of the fish-canning, groundnut oil and cake, and sugar and confectionery sub-sectors.

Senegal’s food-processing industry depends highly on imported inputs, used directly in processing or indirectly in packaging activities. Upto 72 per cent of inputs used for processed food products are imported. These imported inputs vary from wheat for flour milling to industrial packages. There are opportunities for Indian companies to export packaging material and equipment.

The fruit market is characterized by a wide variety of products: concentrate, drink, jam, preserves and syrup. In recent years, processing units have been developing to offer consumers natural local products. These industrial and artisanal units are few in number and currently have little impact on the sector. An embryonic industrial sector is represented by companies such as la Soca (Agricultural Marketing Corporation) makes juices based on bissap, mango,  orange and tamarind,; Casajus, (production capacity of 920,000 l/year);  Unisali (Senegalese food processing industrial unit) manufactures jams based on papaya, mango, guava and tamarind and bissap syrups. Craft units are well established on the local market. The artisanal units are mainly made up of women's groups. These highly diversified units generally incorporate vegetable processing and cereal. In order to make the most of surplus fruit production, they offer beverages (tamarind, bissap...), syrups, jams and dried products (products under development in Senegal). The transformation techniques used within these women's groups are simple and ensure good quality products that are competitive on the market. These units are framed by NGOs or development programmes.

20% of onions produced in Senegal are wasted due to cold storage or lack of processing industry.  At the same time, the country has to import onions to meet the local demand every year. High quality, organic and delicious mangoes suffer from lack of storage, processing and access to markets and resulting losses.

Besides large food-processing industries, local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) engage in processing domestic agricultural products, such as local cereals, fruit and vegetables, fish and milk. Their production technology is usually very primitive and production output remains small. Several characteristics associated with domestic agricultural production — such as products that are difficult to conserve without adequate facilities, or fragile to transport, or that producers are unable to supply in a stipulated quantity and time, and the lack of quality control — present major constraints to industrial and commercial use. Adding higher value to domestic agricultural products remains limited. Applying modern business practice (i.e. market analysis, client-oriented business plans and contract-based business transactions) to the agricultural sector is key to increasing the sector’s competitiveness.

The Gambia

With a population of only 1.8 million people, The Gambia, nestled right in the center of Senegal, is Africa’s smallest mainland country. It is a low-income country, but one with noticeable declines of overall poverty in the last decade and an increase in economic performance in recent years.

Agriculture retains a crucial role in economic growth in the Gambia, even as the share of services in GDP is increasing. Agriculture and related industries contribute to economic growth, employment, poverty reduction, food security, and nutrition. Agriculture employs nearly half—46 percent—of the labor force and is the source of livelihood for 80 percent of the rural population, according to the 2015/16 Integrated Household Survey (IHS). For about 72 percent of poor households and 91 percent of extremely poor rural households, agriculture is the main source of income. The sector contributes 17 percent of GDP and 30–40 percent of all foreign exchange earnings from exports.

The Gambia's salt and fresh waters have abundant and diverse resources. It has a total continental shelf area of 3855 sq. km on the Atlantic Ocean in one of the richest fishing zones of the world. Species present include pelagic and demersal fish, as well as crustaceans and shellfish. With a theoretical annual MSY of 65,000 - 75,000 MT and estimated annual exploitation of around 45,000 MT, the fisheries resources are believed to be under-exploited.

A wealth of agricultural products are grown and livestock reared in The Gambia, the country’s processing and export potential remains untapped. Lack of abattoirs, canning, chilling, freezing, juicing and other processing facilities mean that many products are either consumed locally during their short shelf life, exported raw, or even left to rot on the country’s streets The expanding tourism sector is also a source of growing demand for processed locally-produced food and drink product. At present, fish, drinks and beverages, chicken and shrimp are processed in The Gambia, although at a very limited scale. There is scope for processing of cashew, mango, meat, tomato, dairy, groundnut, onion, orange.


Guinea-Bissau has rich resource endowments and an advantageous geographical location, suitable for a diversified range of agricultural production across the country.

The agri-food sector plays a central role in Guinea-Bissau’s economy, comprising almost half of GDP, the vast majority of the labor force and is critical to addressing both poverty and food insecurity, especially for the 120,000 small-scale farmers in the country.  Agriculture comprises between 40 and50 percent of GDP and employs 80 percent of the labor force.

Over time cashews have gained importance in the country’s economy, in terms of fiscal revenue, exports (95 percent of total export revenue comes from Raw Cashew Nuts-RCN) and rural employment (75 percent of rural households). The economy is now concentrated in the production and sale of RCN, making both the country and farmers highly vulnerable to production and market risks. Cashew exports are also an important source of fiscal revenue, with cashew taxes and fees generating about 10 percent of domestic revenue, exacerbating the vulnerability of the country’s fiscal revenue to fluctuations in global prices. Though Guinea-Bissau is the fourth biggest player worldwide in terms of RCN production, the country is a price-taker in the RCN global market and is only capturing a small portion of the value generated in the global cashew value chain. Guinea Bissau is facing challenges to save the raw cashew this year hit by Corona-19 pandemic.  India imports about 90-95% of its raw cashew nuts production every year.  However, the travel restrictions amid covid-19, lack of infrastructure and easy of doing business in Guinea Bissau is having impact on their export of cashew nuts.

The country’s climate and geographic location, as well as national and international consumption trends, present opportunities for the development of other value chains such as rice, fruit, horticulture and livestock. Guinea-Bissau has, for example, a strong comparative advantage and potential in rice production, but it is not fully exploiting it. Despite having 1.4 million hectares of land suitable for rice cultivation, the country is using less than 300,000 hectares to produce only 110,000 metric tons of husked rice per year (40 percent of national rice consumption). Most existing irrigation infrastructure is dilapidated, making production highly dependent on rainfall and productivity is far below neighboring countries with 1.7 tons per hectares.

Given the sector’s limited market power, the country can improve its competitiveness to better position itself in the traditional segment and to capture more attractive opportunities in niche markets by strengthening value chain links and establishing new and reshaping existing processing facilities to capture niche markets.

Cabo Verde

Cabo Verde has been recognized by the international community (governments, companies, and institutions) as one of most successful African countries regarding political, economic and social performance in recent years   This development effort underpinned by a transformation strategy justified the middle-income country status conferred by a United Nations resolution in 2008, and also its acceptance as a member of the World Trade Organization in the same year.  Cabo Verde depends on significant imports of energy (petroleum products) and food.

In Cabo Verde, agriculture is also very important but management of water resource is a major problem while the country is surrounded by sea water.  Indeed, Cabo Verde is made of 11 islands and the supply of safe water remains a challenge. Thus, desalination of sea water is a vital component for the country’s development. This is a sector which also has huge business potential for Indian enterprises dealing with desalination of sea water.

Food  availability,  albeit  very  small  is  secured in  several  crops by  certain  islands  such as Santiago,  Fogo  and  Santo  Antão. Maize  and  beans  can  be  produced to  meet  local needs and,  in  some  cases,  exported  to  other islands with very  low  production. The  increase  in production  is  a  challenge  that  can be overcome  mainly  with investment  in  horticultural production under irrigation.

Typically, commercial crops have been planted in the few irrigated lands, while subsistence crops are planted in rainfed areas. The introduction and implementation of tropical crops as staple crops, namely maize, beans and manioc from the New World, bananas from Africa, and rice from Asia, occurred soon after island settlements in the 16th century. Due to economic interests, and since the beginning, maize and other subsistence crops were established in rainfed areas while sugarcane, coffee and cotton occupied irrigated areas.

The Cabo Verde agrarian sector has always been greatly vulnerable, due to a number of constraints, such as shortage of rainfall, prolonged droughts, scarcity of resources (water and soil, low soil quality, and relatively small farmland), small territory, and poor technological knowledge.  As a result, the current exploitation system is essentially oriented towards subsistence agriculture. Despite its fragility, the agricultural sector is still the support of a large number of families whose livelihoods are closely associated with land.

60% of the Cabo Verde population lives in rural landscapes and 81% of rural households in the country are involved in primary sector activities directly linked to agriculture and livestock.

The sector is highly fragmented and mostly informal, and competition the sector is still in an early phase of development. There is, however, some degree of competition along the value chain, in the distribution channels, mainly through informal intermediaries (rabidantes).Traditional agriculture is mostly targeted to trade of fresh fruit and vegetables and some traditional agro products that are transformed in semi-industrial and rural units. The cold storage conditions and services, the regularity of the inter-island routes, and other particular issues have high significant impact in the operating costs along the supply chain.

The value chain fragmentation limits current production capacity by generating inefficiency cycles that undermines the potential of supply of fruits such as banana and papaya that are produced in sufficient scale, are fully available during the year.

The Cabo Verdean fisheries sector offeres abundant opportunities in terms of upgrading the sector to a more optimal situation for development and sustained economic growth.

The main national industries include fish- and food-processing, beverages, tobacco products, and clothing. Cabo Verde enjoys tariff-free entry to the EU market for wholly originating fish products, but national production is not sufficient to meet raw material demand for processing and export. As a result, Cabo Verde has obtained an exception from the European Commission to allow for a certain quota of non-originating canned tuna and mackerel products.

Opportunities / challenges

With the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and disruption of supply chains, world has realized that food security / self-sufficiency, and as a corollary in food processing, is vital for any nation.

As to attractions of the region, to Indian trade and industry, climate is warm and favourable not only agriculture but also for comfortable living and working. Dakar is a hub of intercontinental air traffic, well connected with EU and US. Region has found oil and gas resources and is blessed with moderate climate throughout the year. Best climatic conditions obtain with temperature 15-20 degree in winters and 20-28 degrees in summer.  Cultural & social values & joint family system is very similar to India's. Democratic & stable polity, good safety and security in west Africa, sound law & order condition make Dakar preferred headquarter for MNCs and regional / multilateral organizations. International schools and education in English are available.  Countries welcome guests under their cultural traditions of Teranga.

The current facilities for food processing mainly comprises grain milling and edible oil extraction at the community-based level. The storage of fruit and vegetables in the rural areas is one out of several post-harvest constraints that farmers are experiencing each year. The food processing activity is significantly constrained by inadequate quality of raw material, high post-harvest wastage levels (30 to 70 percent), high production costs, and low capacity utilization. Additional constraints include the absence of cold-chain, non-availability of packaging material, limited access to credit, inadequate support services, absence of regulatory framework, unreliable supply of factor inputs, undeveloped consumer taste for processed foods, and a weak marketing and distribution system. There are other threats which have caused disruption in production and/or distribution. A few years ago, mango producers faced invasion of the fruit fly which destroys most of the production.

Establishment of agricultural value chains can make significant contributions by helping cultivation to transform from a traditional subsistence form to a commercial and modern one. At present, farmers / agri-producers have access to little or no processing and preservation technology and traditional preservation techniques are still in vogue and include sun-drying, salting, fermenting, smoking, roasting and grinding. The access to the national as well as international markets has become a crucial problem. Delays in release of consignments has to be factored in. Taxes and levies on imports makes domestic manufacturing viable proposition. Shortage of old chain would need addressing.  Electricity could be expensive though sun is abundant. Skill upgradation would yield rich dividends. Informal trade channels, with aversion in general local food wholesalers and distributors against any written contract particularly given cost escalation is a challenge. Senegal’s banking system is governed by the Central Bank (BCEAO) common to the eight members (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) of the West African Economic and Monetary Union). These countries use the CFA franc (XOF) as its currency. The French Treasury guarantees the conversion rate of 1 Euro = CFA franc 655.957. There are twenty six (26) registered banks in Senegal with some having their corresponding banks in India. Banks do open letters of credit (LC).  To avoid any financial loss, companies are advised to make their own due diligence and use appropriate trade/ bank instruments. Senegal has adopted a development model in which Public Private Partnership (PPP) plays an integral role. Special Economic Zones available in abundance here provide respite on many of the challenges above. Embassy of India in Dakar regularly organizes online conferences / webinars to bring all stakeholders (e.g. universities, farmers, institutions and industrials, government, chambers, industry) on the same platform on a particularly subject like food processing.

Government of India's flagship capacity building program ITEC (Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation) and its advanced training facilities could support bilateral cooperation in food processing.

Webinar, 3 July 2020

To discuss opportunities, challenges and way forward, a stakeholder conference was organized on 3 July 2020 by the Embassy.

This webinar was an unqualified success, with registrations reaching almost 300, showing the interest of Indian companies in this sector and in this region. This webinar was also the first time that presentations were displayed in three languages: English, French and Portuguese, thus providing all participants from India and the countries of our accreditation full access to the presentation. During the interactive session, facility of translation with the aid Embassy Translators was also provided. The webinar lasted for well over 2.5 hrs and the participants were willing to stay on for even longer, despite the late hour, especially in India, giving another indication of the interest generated by this subject and the interest of Indian companies in this region, which has been below their horizon for a long time.

Way forward

All the resource material, report, recording of the webinar, list of participants in the webinar are uploaded on Embassy website (https://asp.embassyofindiadakar.gov.in/eoiaspHtml/foodprocessing.htm). Indian companies keen to cooperate would be advised to: 1) undertake conversation with potential partners here 2) advance information exchange via online channels to the extent they can 3) visit at an appropriate opportunity whether individually or as part of delegation to carry forward their discussion with their counterparts.