Fonio is a cereal largely cultivated in West Africa. Classified under the Digitaria genus, fonio is the term for small grain millets which has the smallest seeds under the millet species. There are two categories of Fonio; the white Fonio (Digitaria exilis) and the black Fonio ( Digitaria iburua). Fonio is largely grown in the northern parts of Ghana although it has the potential to grow in all the agroecological zones of the country partly because it is drought resistant.
The fonio crop takes about 60 to 75 days (8 weeks) to grow for harvest. During harvest, the crop is usually cut with a knife or sickle, tied into bunches, dried, and stored in shady areas. Good yields range between 600-800 kg per hectare though higher yields can be obtained. In marginal areas, yields may reduce below 500 kg and extremely poor soils may yield 150-200 kg per hectare.
Fonio is consumed mainly in the West African countries, where it is also cultivated. According to the global market overview by Index box, the global market showed steady growth, rising from 373,000 tonnes in 2007, to about 673,000 tonnes in 2016. Annual rates of growth stood at +6.8% in physical terms. The market value increased by 11% to $426M with Guinea being the country with the highest consumption, accounting for almost 78% of global figures. This was followed by Nigeria (12%), Mali (5%) and Côte d’Ivoire (3%).
In 2016, the leading destinations of Fonio imports were, France (40%, based on tonnes), Cambodia (20%), Netherlands (13%), Spain (9%) together making up 82% of global imports in physical terms
Despite the underdeveloped value chain of Fonio in Ghana, it has the potential to be processed into products similar to ‘couscous’ or ‘Gari’ a wide variety of meals.
Some notable Fonio products on the international and local markets include ‘Yolele Fonio’, ‘Gaja Fonio Complet’, ‘Choice Foneo’ and ‘DIM Fonio’.
According to a publication by the Guardian in 2018, Fonio is gluten-free and nutritious because of two amino acids, cystine and methionine, which make it safe for diabetics and those who are gluten intolerant.
In Ghana, commercial Fonio consumption is being promoted by Unique Quality Product Enterprise, an organic Agri processing company, with their prime Fonio products called the DIM Fonio.