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December 17, 2008

Mozambique hopes to stop rice imports in three years

by Charles Mangwiro

Mozambique expects to boost rice production in the current fiscal year and will stop imports in the next three years as it plans to raise production even further, a top official said on Monday.

"We have the conditions, we have the fertile land and we will be maximising production," said Agriculture Minister Soares Nhaca. He said the government will invest more in infrastracture development and broadening the knowledge base of the farmers by training more agricultural technical experts, mechanizing the sector and creating networks of substantial farmers.

The state budget for 2009 has been set at $3.8 billion. Agriculture is the third biggest expenditure after education and health.

"The government has adopted a framework strategy to do away with rice imports and to reduce wheat imports. Within the next three years we will be self sustaining in rice production," said Nhaca.

Mozambique's annual grain and cereal imports are normally about 500,000 tonnes, comprising mostly wheat and rice.

The government says grain production in 2008/2009 will total 2.6 million tonnes compared to 2.3 million in the previous season, or a 17 percent rise.

"The government will increase the agriculture budget by 10 percent and the strategy will include fertilizer and seed imports as well as the development of irrigation systems and the training of rural extension workers," said Nhaca.

Mozambique faced a shortfall of 500,000 tonnes of maize, 350,000 tonnes of wheat and 400,000 tonnes this year.

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

Reuters

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