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Africa imports $5b worth of rice every year – Tijani

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RiceDespite the clear potential to boost rice production at the regional level in Africa, most countries on the Continent continue to rely heavily on imports for meeting their rice consumption needs, costing the Continent $5 billion annually.

Rice is a primary staple for food consumption, particularly in West Africa, where its growing cities depend on rice as a cornerstone of the daily diet and consumption is increasing by 5.5 per cent annually.

“Such a heavy reliance of most African countries on rice imports for their consumption continues to pose a serious food security concern, as rice consumption will jump to 130 per cent by 2035,” Mr Bukar Tijani, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, has said.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of a two-day technical workshop to discuss the implementation of the “Partnership for Sustainable Rice Systems Development in Sub-Saharan Africa” project, Mr Tijani saidd that the consumption of rice, a primary staple in Africa, is rising more than any other.

Ten countries (Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda) are involved in the project, which is a partnership between Venezuela and FAO that strongly emphasizes the importance of sharing best practices among the participating African states and other countries.

At the regional level, the project is consistent with the Africa Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) adopted by governments throughout the region and which aims to increase market access through improved rural infrastructure and facilitate regional trade in food staples.

At country level, the project is consistent with FAO Country Programme Frameworks (CPFs) and national rice policies.

It will also include Civil Society Organizations, Farmer-Based Organizations (FBOs), public-private partnerships and development partners in an effort to harmonize regional efforts through joint activities.

Mr Tijani said research institutions have highlighted the potential role of high-yielding rice varieties as a solution to boost low crop productivity, targeting their increased use by smallholders.

In response, the African Union and the African Development Bank have recognized rice as a priority strategic food crop for the region as part of the Malabo agenda to eradicate hunger in Africa by 2025”, he added.

Also, the FAO is actively consolidating partnerships with regional and global development partners to support the transformation of Africa’s rice sector by boosting productivity, strengthening rice value chains and supporting improved coordination of regional markets.

Currently, FAO is also working with the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) led by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, alongside Africa Rice, African Development Bank and others, to provide technical assistance to countries seeking to double rice production levels by 2018.

Dr Sidi Sanyang, Program leader in AfricaRice, said rice is the single most important source of dietary energy in West Africa and the third most important for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) as a whole.

He said despite the positive and rapid increase in rice production in Africa since 2007, local rice production is unable to keep pace with the increasing demand.

Dr Sanyang said the demand-supply gap is widening and this demands an intensification of rice production, based on enhancing biological processes of the ecosystem.

He said this production model will be the foundation and the benefit of the entire business model and rice food chain.

The FAO is working with existing research and development partners with initiatives that are toward similar goals (CARD, AfricaRice, AfDB, AGRA and others), in order to promote more efficient, sustainable and productive rice production systems in Africa.

The project implementation will address efficient rice production systems for Africa, supported through the promotion and adoption of best practices and up scaling of proven and tested technologies.

In addition to the support of the development and promotion of policy options and effective institutions and markets, it will also cover the development of agribusiness models along the rice value chain for increased production and productivity, including reduction of post-harvest losses and improved grain quality.

Other areas are irrigated and integrated rice systems to ensure sustainable increased production.

Source: GNA

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