Demand for rice support rises
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says the organization is currently witnessing a significant and increasing demand for assistance from member states in sub-Saharan Africa to help increase production levels to enable governments to achieve food self-sufficiency in rice in light of the growing demand.
The FAO says although there is a positive and rapid increase in rice production in Africa since 2007, local rice production is unable to keep pace with the increasing demand. The demand-supply gap is widening and is bridged by importations.
Africa has a large untapped potential for rice production and a large and growing demand for consumption, yet US$5.6 billion worth of rice is estimated to be imported in 2013 from outside the continent.
Consequently, 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.
Bukari Tijani, Regional FAO Representative for Africa and Assistant-Director-General of FAO, in addressing the opening of the Technical Workshop for Partnership for Sustainable Rice Systems Development in sub-Saharan Africa in Accra last week said currently FAO is working with the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) led by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, alongside Africa Rice and AfDB and others, to provide technical assistance to countries seeking to double rice production levels by 2018.
“The Venezuelan government has taken exemplary leadership in its support to the African rice sector by donating US$5 million for the implementation of the Partnership for Sustainable Rice Systems Development in sub-Saharan Africa”, Tijani stated.
He added that the project will provide an opportunity to build on on-going initiatives and partnerships by assessing national rice development strategies in order to identify strengths and highlights constraints within local rice value chains.
The project targets 10 of the leading rice producers in Africa namely: Benin, Cameroon, and Cote’ d’Ivoire. The rest are Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.
Thus, the technical workshop provided an opportunity to present the umbrella programme for rice partnership and improve understanding and coordination of the proposed activities.
Planned activities will include the promotion of improved rice seed systems, tailored capacity building to rice value chain actors, support to post-rice harvest reduction and the development of irrigated rice production systems.
Currently, rice is the single most important source of dietary energy in West Africa and the third most important for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.
This growing importance has seen the African Union and the African Development Bank (AfDB) recognize rice as a priority strategic staple crop for the region as part of the Malabo agenda and to eradicate hunger in Africa by 2025.