Greater investment to double rice production in Africa is needed to reduce food insecurity as well as improve livelihoods, specialists urged.
Consumption of rice in Africa is growing faster than any crop and, according to the Africa Rice Center has done so at an average of five percent per year since 1960.
“We believe that rice can help move people out of poverty, not just food insecurity,” said Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an African-led partnership that helps small farmers boost productivity and income.
“Rice has a high potential for development in Africa as it is a tropical crop,” Ngongi said. He was speaking at a regional meeting, which is bringing together specialists to consider how to double production to 28 million tonnes by 2017/2018.
“We know what we can and should do with rice. Doubling production will be difficult but it is possible,” according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The agency plans to scale up grants, loans and technical cooperation to improve output.
Supply versus demand
Despite an increase in production in sub-Saharan Africa to 14.2 million tonnes (of paddy) in 2006 from 8.6 million tonnes in 1980, demand still outstrips supply.
In Kenya, annual production has halved to 45,000MT since 2006 due to drought, new diseases and limited access to good quality seeds and fertiliser, said Agriculture Minister William Ruto. The national demand is 300,000MT.
“Kenya does not have an active rice-breeding programme,” he said. “There is an urgent need to streamline rice research to take advantage of new technologies for boosting rice productivity.”