Rice production in Africa grows

riceAfrica’s rice production grew 18 percent in 2008 and the continent may become a net exporter of the grain if more land is brought under cultivation, according to the Africa Rice Center.

The sharp increase in output is the result of support provided by African governments to rice farmers in the wake of the global food crisis over the past two years, the Cotonou, Benin-based center said in an e-mailed statement today. No output figures were given in the statement.

“This is a step in the right direction, but governments still need to do more in order to significantly reduce dependence on rice imports,” said Abdoulaye Seck, the director- general of the center.

Senegal, the world’s eighth-largest rice importer, and Burkina Faso, were among African countries that experienced food riots in 2008, prompting their governments to help farmers obtain improved rice varieties and inputs. In one year, output rose more than 90 percent in Senegal and more than two-fold in Burkina Faso.

Other rice-producing countries that recorded double-digit growth within one year include Mali, Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Uganda and Nigeria, which “alone takes up 5.6 percent of globally traded rice,” according to the center. All of the countries used the NERICA variety of rice, developed by the rice center, which thrives in drier and harsher environments, according to the statement.

Net Exporter

By bringing an additional 15 percent of current rice land into cultivation, Africa may become a net exporter of rice, supplying more than 5 million metric tons to the global market, the Africa Rice Center projects.

The center is an inter-governmental association of 23 African countries that produce rice, supporting research and policy dialogue on issues concerning the cereal that is a staple in the world’s poorest continent.

Africa’s paddy rice output rose by 16 percent from 22 million tons in 2007 to 25.5 million tons in 2008, the Food and Agriculture Organization said on its Web site. The United Nations agency forecasts that the continent’s 2009 paddy rice output will be 25.6 million tons.

Source: Bloomberg

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