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November 19, 2008

Niger River can irrigate 2.8 million hectares

The potential of irrigation of the basin of the Niger River is estimated at 2.816 million hectares, a survey on the cultivation of rice released by the West African Bureau of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said.

For Mali, the Office of Niger built in 1932 in the central delta of the river, covered a potential of around 1 million hectares out of hardly 150,000 hectares were exploited after more than seven decades, said the survey.

It noted that the objective of governments of the sub-region was to incorporate, as fast as possible, new dynamics of the cultivation of rice, taking into account the fact that the zone had abundant agricultural potentials.

Around 874 million hectares of Africa's land are considered as physically adapted to the agricultural production with the continent using only 4 per cent of this resource against 40 per cent for Asia, the document pointed out.

In the West African sub-region, the hydro resources estimated at 1,000 billion cubic meters of fresh water is renewed each year through the normal hydro cycle.

In spite of these assets, the study said in 2006, the countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imported 7.2 million tonnes of rice, which was one-third of the world imports, at the cost of approximately US$ 1.7 billion.

The strong dependence on foreign countries in this field is a serious handicap on macro-economic stability in the West African sub-region.

Soaring prices of food products, in particular rice, over the first quarter of this year, triggered demonstrations in many of the countries of the sub-region.

Sub-regional rice consumption is in constant progression, approximately 9.6 per cent over the period 2001-2006.

The sub-regional production estimated at approximately 6.13 million tons in 2006 covered only 49 per cent of the sub-region's needs.

The principal rice producing countries of the sub-region are Nigeria, with 2.63 million tons, followed by Guinea with 898,000 tons, Sierra Leone with 711,000 tons and Mali with 682,000 tons.

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