Cablegate: Angola's New Agriculture Minister Predicts Sharply

DE RUEHLU #0311/01 0871646
R 281646Z MAR 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary. On March 22, 2007, Ambassador Efird and
Econoff called on Agriculture Minister Afonso Pedro Canga.
According to Canga, this year,s heavy rains will reduce the
corn harvest to about 60,000 metric tons, compared with
450,000 tons in 2006. The cassava harvest will be adequate,
but transportation problems will make supply to the maize
growing areas difficult. He agreed Angola,s farmers must
move from subsistence to commercial farming. To achieve that
goal, he recognized the need for improved transportation,
flood control, seed and fertilizers, as well as the need to
develop markets for agricultural products, improve rural
finance, and offer agricultural extension services in rural
areas. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On March 22, 2007, Ambassador Efird paid an
initial call on Afonso Pedro Canga, Angola,s Minister of
Agriculture since late January 2007. Ambassador Efird
reviewed U.S. concerns about agriculture and current USG
projects in Angola and Minister Canga responded in kind with
a tour d,horizon of Angola,s agricultural potential and
challenges. Ambassador Efird was accompanied by Econoff.
Minister Canga was joined by new Vice Minister for
Agriculture and Rural Development, Filomena del Gado along
with his chiefs of staff, Tobias Lopes and Bonifacio de

Food Security and Statistics

3. (SBU) Heavy rains will reduce this year,s corn (maize)
harvest. Canga predicted a harvest of just 60,000 metric
tons (MT), compared with last year,s bumper harvest of
450,000 MT, but acknowledged the unreliability of most
statistics in Angola. (Note: Canga may have misspoken, but
he would not be alone. On March 27, an Agriculture Ministry
official in Cuanza Sul Province predicted an extremely
unlikely 300,000 metric ton maize harvest in that Province
alone. End note.) Canga believes a cultural change making
Angolans more willing to give information is a key part of
improvement in statistics available. The National Institute
of Statistics and the Ministry of Agriculture together with
the European Union are developing standards for collecting
information and make Angola,s agricultural statistics more
reliable, he concluded. Ambassador Efird noted that USAID is
working with the Ministry on an early warning program for
food security (FEWSNET) and urged the Minister to meet with
USAID expert Gary Eilarts and support his work.

4. (SBU) Ambassador Efird noted that the United States
Government,s projects in Angola, while small, are meant to
serve as pilots for future large-scale Angolan projects, to
increase the value of products and to assist local groups in
developing self-help skills and management. In the area of
food security, the United States is offering to help Angola
build its own system to replace the WFP,s Vulnerability
Assessment system in order to identify where poor harvests
imperil food security. (Note: The World Food Program is in
the process of standing down in Angola; its crop assessments
have pinpointed potential food deficits. End note.) Poor
transportation still means that Angola can still have food
deficits in one area and a glut in elsewhere, said Efird.
Canga, concurring, stressed the GRA,s sovereign obligation
to improve transportation while building grain reserves to
meet local food deficits.

Commercial Farming and AGOA

5. (SBU) Minster Canga expressed his satisfaction that
Angola,s agriculture is now on the road to recovery as
refugees and displaced persons return to their rural homes.
He agreed with Ambassador Efird that small farmers, once able
to feed themselves, should enter market-based commercial
farming. Ambassador Efird noted several encouraging
developments: American companies have expressed interest
both in raising crops for export and in producing packaging
for Angola-grown food. The October 2006 visit of USDA Deputy
Administrator of Trade Policy Pat Sheikh from the Department
of Agriculture had opened new possibilities for cooperation
to be pursued during the May 2007 USDA visit during Luanda,s
Alimenticia trade show. U.S. firms are also participating in
Angola,s agricultural fairs. The U.S. Government has also
offered to provide Angola with technical help in establishing
a testing laboratory for food exports, Ambassador Efird

LUANDA 00000311 002 OF 003

continued, noting that this would improve Angola,s ability
to export agricultural products to the United States under
AGOA. Minister Canga concurred in the need for future
Angolan agricultural exports to meet the stringent standards
of importing countries. He added that Angola longs to
rebuild the system of laboratories that made Angola a model
for the rest of Africa before its civil war.

Increasing Rural Capacity and Access

6. (SBU) Better roads may attract rural Angolans to the
cities, observed Canga, but they will also bring agricultural
products to urban markets and give trained agronomists access
to farms where they will improve farmers, abilities. Enough
income growth in rural areas might even slow the pace of
migration to the cities, he hoped. Canga expressed gratitude
for USAID and the Chevron-funded seed-multiplication programs
to grow seed domestically, noting that Angola currently
imports 80 percent of its seed. Public works to control rain
water and promote irrigation will also increase food security
by permitting dry season planting, Canga noted. He cited the
need for additional credits for agricultural producers, along
the lines of existing programs funded through the USAID
&Novo Banco8 project or the Chevron-GRA funded program at
Banco Sol.

Technical Assistance to Rural Areas

7. (SBU) In order to increase Angola,s technical ability
in agriculture, the United States is supporting projects to
combat Avian Flu, Ambassador Efird noted. Agostinho Neto
University has ongoing exchanges with the University of
Michigan, she recalled, and the U.S. Government has also
proposed university exchanges with land-grant colleges in the
United States as a way of improving the capacity of Angola,s
agricultural extension service. An agricultural extension
service giving farmers good technical advice is essential,
Canga agreed, but requires building up an educational system
geared to produce good technicians in the fields as well as
outstanding scholars for the faculty.

Fertilizers Ruled by the Market

8. (SBU) Ambassador Efird said that USAID had funded a
useful study on fertilizer production. The Minister said
that a government agency had monopolized fertilizer imports
and distribution before independence and the civil war, but
that organization no longer exists, and the Ministry of
Agriculture now wants to let market forces decide the
quantity and quality of fertilizers farmers buy, explained
Canga. Commercial agriculture demands fertilizers for
adequate crops because Angola,s ferruginous soils are poor
in nutrients, Canga noted, and with the future growth of
commercial farming, Angola must import far more than its
current 20,000 MT of fertilizer. Ambassador Efird observed
that importing bulk fertilizer would permit distributors to
mix the correct fertilizer for different crops and different
soil conditions. Canga agreed that farmers now use
fertilizer wastefully, another area where agricultural
extension agents can help the farmers. Canga continued that
the fertilizer business is now entirely in private hands but
needs encouragement.

Rural Women

9. (SBU) Canga also stressed the importance of reducing the
burden of rural women, who do most of farming work, bear
children, raise them, cook, keep house and care for their
husbands. Vice Minister of Agriculture Filomena Delgado
referred to several ongoing projects designed to improve the
lot of rural women and noted that she would travel to the
U.S. as part of the delegation to the U.S.-Angolan Chamber of
Commerce meeting on May 9.


10. Canga made no direct appeal for food aid, nor did he
substantiate his crop forecast. However, he also wished to
keep the possibility on the table. On private control of the

LUANDA 00000311 003 OF 003

fertilizer market, Canga,s information was selective, since
the fertilizer market is limited to a favored few importers.
End Comment.

Bio Note

11. (SBU) Afonso Pedro Canga was born in Angola,s Uige
Province on February 10, 1959. Before being appointed
Minister of Agriculture in January 2007, he served as
Director General of the Institute for Agricultural
Development and before that as Vice Minister of Agriculture.
Trained as an agronomist at Angola,s Agostinho Neto
University, he has long been the principal architect of
Angola,s agricultural policies, including its prohibition on
the importation of viable transgenic seed. He is married and
has children. Minister Canga understands English.

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