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May 29, 2011

Tanzania rice project to raise production fourfold

by John Mbalamwezi

Tanzania plans to boost its rice production fourfold over the next decade to 3.6 million metric tonnes up from 900,000 tonnes.

The project dubbed Improving Rice Profitability through Increased Productivity and Better Marketing, will see the country save more than $500 million annually on imports which meet the 30 per cent national deficit.

The project will focus on seed development, paddy production and processing. The Food and Agricultural Organisation ranks Tanzania as the fifth largest rice producing country behind Egypt, Nigeria, Madagascar and Ivory Coast.

The project targets four districts and will be carried out under partnership from farmers, National Network of Small-Scale Farmers Groups (MVIWATA) and Dodoma based Rural Livelihood Development Company (RLDC).

Stephan Ruvuga, the executive director of Mviwata told The EastAfrican in Dar es Salaam last week that the project will benefit 3,000 people in the four districts — IIgunga in Tabora, Manyoni in Singida, Babati in Manyara and Mvomero in Morogoro region.

The majority of smallholder farmers in Tanzania — about 230,000 in number — grow a number of traditional varieties, which have long maturity and are affected by irregular rainfall patterns. Pest infestation has also contributed to a decline in yields.

Last year, Tanzania secured $2.3 million from the Swiss Government through the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, to boost production among smallholder rice farmers in the Central Corridor.

The financing stands out from an initial phase one budget of $7.2 million.

In the Central Corridor, rice is extensively produced in Tabora, Shinyanga and Morogoro where the conditions are more favourable. It is also grown on a smaller scale in Manyara, Singida and Dodoma.

It is a particularly important crop in the Central Corridor which accounts for 48 per cent of the national land under rice cultivation. The cereal is among the most traded in sub -Saharan Africa.

According to statistics from the World Food Programme and Famine Early Warning System taken in 2004, close to 3,600 Metric Tonnes of rice were traded between Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, DRC and Zambia.

The main destination for the rice is the DRC (supplied from Tanzania and Zambia), accounting for about 79 per cent of the total, followed by Tanzania, accounting for about 10 per cent, mainly supplied from Malawi.

Informal trade in rice is quite fluid with the countries exporting and importing from each other.

On the one hand, some of the rice destined for the DRC are re-exports of East Asian rice from Zambia that comes from South Africa and Tanzania through the ports of Durban and Dar-es-Salaam, the statistics show.

However, even with this vast potential, most farmers in the Central Corridor fail to reach their target due to lack of appropriate knowledge in best farming practices, crop marketing and identification of related risks.

The East African

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