Rough estimates based on production patterns and international trade flows suggest that developing countries consume over 90 percent of the white maize produced globally, with consumption concentrated in Africa and Central America. In South America, the use of white maize is most important in Colombia and Venezuela, while elsewhere in the region, as well as in the Caribbean, the preferred type is yellow maize. In Asia, where the basic staples are rice and wheat, white maize is of limited and mostly localized importance. Among the developed countries, white maize is a basic staple food only in the Republic of South Africa, while in the United States it is mainly used in the food processing industry for the manufacture of prepared foods and snacks. In several other countries, white maize is imported for the manufacture of starch and whisky and as a rice extender.
For developing countries, the positive relationship between the importance of maize as a product for direct human consumption and the share of white maize in total maize production is shown in Figure 1. In the figure, significant outliers are indicated by name. None of them are located in sub-Saharan Africa or in Central America, the two areas of primary importance in white maize production in the developing world.
Most of the white maize is consumed directly as food with small quantities as other uses. White maize is eaten in a variety of forms which vary both between and within regions. Food items in Africa are usually boiled or cooked, while they are usually baked or fried in the Americas. The two types of white maize - dent maize and flint maize - are largely associated with certain types of food products or dishes. Dent maize is soft and floury and is primarily used for making soups and porridges. Flint maize, by contrast, which has a hard, vitreous endosperm, is primarily used for gruel or for a type of couscous which replaces rice or couscous from wheat in several countries of Africa. In parts of Africa, flint maize is preferred to dent maize because of smaller losses under traditional storage and processing methods.
While there is no evidence of superior digestibility or nutritional value of yellow and white maize6, resistance by consumers of white maize to accepting yellow maize may be due to quality problems, especially if yellow maize is imported for food which originally may have been intended to be used as feed, or because of lack of knowledge of the different properties of dent versus flint maize. In regard to general food consumption patterns, two major features may be observed. First, while white maize consumption, in absolute terms, continues to rise, per caput consumption is levelling off or even declining in several countries, mainly due to the insufficient growth in production. Second, per caput consumption of white maize in rural areas of producing countries is generally higher than in urban areas as city dwellers tend to have a more diversified food intake, because of the greater access to substitutes, such as bread and rice.
6 Yellow maize contains vitamin A, while white maize does not. While this vitamin can make a contribution to human nutrition, the amounts of the vitamin present in yellow maize is insufficient to meet a significant portion of human requirements.
FIG. 1. SHARE OF WHITE MAIZE IN TOTAL MAIZE PRODUCTION AND IN FOOD USE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
White maize is sometimes sold at a premium in southern Africa, reflecting consumer preferences. For example, in urban markets in Mozambique during a period when ample yellow maize was available as food aid, average price premiums for white grain over yellow grain ranged up to 25 percent. Price premiums for white maize flour, 85 percent extraction, over equivalent yellow maize flour, ranged from 15 to 30 percent (Weber et al., 1992). Contingent valuation techniques suggested that in urban Zimbabwe in mid-1993, white maize flour (85 percent extraction) would command an average 33 percent price premium for the lowest income quintile and an 84 percent price premium for the highest income quintile (Rubey, 1995).
In livestock feeding, yellow maize is preferred because it gives poultry meat, animal fat and egg yolk the yellow colour appreciated by consumers in many countries. In Mexico, where relatively large quantities of white maize are fed to animals, the colour deficiency is corrected by adding carotin as a colouring agent to the compound feed mix. In contrast to yellow maize, white maize is not used for the manufacture of fuel alcohol nor for high fructose sugar.