Rice-growing experts from Thailand and Vietnam visited Tanzania in October to explore collaboration opportunities with African countries to boost rice productivity and production. Demand for rice consumption is growing in Africa, particularly in urban areas, and the level of domestic rice production is not keeping pace with the growth in consumer demand.
To address this gap, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) facilitated a three-day regional workshop involving African and Asian experts to share knowledge experiences on better rice production.
“It is important that we need to redouble efforts in sharing knowledge and experiences on better production but also for better trade in rice, using opportunities such as the African Continental Free Trade Area. There is no short cut to achieving some level of respectable self-sufficiency other than enhancing productivity, which at the moment is at a very low level,” said Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO assistant director-general and regional Representative for Africa.
“By sharing knowledge and experiences on best practices , we are contributing to a more sustainable agrifood system transformation in Africa.”
“The government of Tanzania is keen to tap into the knowledge and experience of some Asian countries such as Vietnam and Thailand which are among the top three rice exporting countries in the world.”Nyasebwa Chimagu, the director of crops development in the ministry of agriculture.
“We value the experience of some Asian countries that have succeeded to boost productivity in rice farming through various strategies including rice intensification systems.”
Increasing rice yields in Africa
Africa’s top rice-producing countries include Nigeria, Tanzania, Madagascar, Liberia, Uganda, Mali, Sierra Leone, Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana, Gambia, Benin, and Cameroon. But more than half of all African countries are net rice importers.
African rice consumption is projected to reach 34.9 million tonnes of milled rice by 2025. If current trends continue, African production will meet only two-thirds of the demand and more than 12 million tonnes of rice will need to be imported each year, at an annual cost of more than $5 billion.
While imports from Asia will likely address the gap, some African countries have made significant strides in increasing their rice production driven largely by political will and commitment to put in place the right policies, strategies, and institutional mechanisms.
In Tanzania, for example, rice production has increased in recent years because of coordinated efforts by the government and other stakeholders, including FAO, which has made rice the second most important food crop after maize.
Despite progress, productivity remains low, with an average yield of one to three tonnes per hectare which is less than half of the average yield achieved in major rice producing countries such as China.
Reasons for low productivity include climate change, insufficient application of new technologies, the use of low-yielding varieties, low levels of private sector involvement in the rice value chain, insufficient irrigation infrastructure and low levels of youth involvement in agriculture.
Learning from Asia
Valuable lessons were shared at the workshop from the Asian value chain including price and trade policies, research and extension, agricultural education, seeds systems development, private sector development and technical know-how in plant production, protection, harvesting, processing and trade.
Through the South-South Cooperation, sharing these lessons can help African countries avoid similar hurdles and related costs.
“South-South and Triangular Cooperation offers an effective delivery mechanism towards the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa,” said Peter Anaadumba, South-South and Triangular Cooperation specialist at the FAO Regional Office for Africa. “Through SSTC, sustainable agricultural production and profitability can be increased, and new technologies and innovations can be introduced to drive progress.”
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