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July 03, 2008

Mozambique to import rice from Vietnam

Mozambique will import 1.2 million tonnes of rice from Vietnam over the next three years to curb food shortages, said Industry and Trade Minister Antonio Fernando on July 3.

Fernando said Mozambique would import 400,000 tonnes of rice a year for the next three years, at a price to be negotiated between Mozambican importing companies and Vietnamese authorities.

"Vietnam has pledged to continue exporting rice to Mozambique, and we managed to persuade them to grant 1.2 million tonnes for the next three years," Fernando said. "As a government, we have done our part, and now the Mozambican companies should sit down with the Vietnamese and negotiate the prices."

Mozambique normally imports about 500,000 tonnes of grains, mostly wheat and rice which are not produced locally.

Earlier this year, the agriculture ministry said the country expected to increase its grain harvest to 2.6 million tonnes by August despite two cyclones and floods this season.

In spite of the anticipated bigger harvest, Mozambique will still need to import about 1.25 million tonnes of maize, wheat and rice this year to cover food shortages caused by the floods.

The government said recently it plans to increase its agriculture budget to 10 percent of the total state budget from 4 percent over the next three years to boost production.

The 2008 state budget is pegged at U$3.5 billion.

Mozambique is one of the poorest nations in Africa and is struggling to find the money to rebuild its dilapidated agriculture sector, which was neglected during a 17-year civil war that ended in 1992.

The rebuilding programme is likely to be prolonged by rising food costs that have sparked chaos and riots in many African countries including Mozambique, with the poor, who spend the bulk of their income on food, the hardest hit.

Reuters

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