To ease your site search, article categories are at bottom of page.

June 19, 2011

Global research chief sees rice boom in Africa

by David Williams

Subsaharan Africa could double or triple rice yields and one day even export to Asia where urban sprawl and rising sea levels threaten paddies, a global research chief said on June 13.

Large parts of Subsaharan Africa, in the Sudan, for example, have vast tracts of land suitable for paddy rice production, said International Rice Research Institute director general Robert Zeigler. But these lands have yet to be harnessed. As a result, Africa now imports about 40 percent of its rice needs from Asia.

In 2009, paddy production rose 3.44 percent to 24.43 million tonnes in African countries, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation data showed. But demand grew 4.2 percent in the same year, said the Africa Rice Centre's annual report, forcing the continent to import 10 million tonnes of rice at a cost of $4 billion ($2.8 billion euros).

"We are looking to double or triple the yields in Africa - they are very low now," Zeigler said in Madrid, where he was picking up an award to the institute for development cooperation.

In the longer term, demand for rice will carry on growing in Asia but land for paddies is already saturated and it may decline as Asian megacities encroach on farms and Delta areas are swamped by a rising sea and increasingly severe storms because of climate change, Zeigler said.

"If you look at Subsaharan Africa there are areas, very, very large areas that have a lot of land, very good land, that have a lot of water and there are hardly any people who live there," he said. "These are areas that could be future sources for global food supply," Zeigler said, citing areas in the Sudan, Mali, Senegal, Ghana, and along the Niger Delta.

China was already investing in some of these areas in Africa, he said. Such investments should be properly managed, the research chief said, but not refused.

"It could be that 25 years from now, India and China will be sourcing a significant amount of their staples from Subsaharan Africa," Zeigler said. "If that is managed properly that could be a tremendous boon to the farmers in Africa, take pressure off land in Asia and if it is done properly everybody wins."

The Manila-based IRRI, which has programmes in Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda, has teamed up with Africa Rice, which is a formal linkage of over 20 Subsaharan countries to push rice output in the continent.

Rice grains in Africa have deteriorated over time, and new varieties are needed with shorter growing seasons and resistance to drought and disease, including the endemic African virus, Rice Yellow Mottle Virus.

But African countries also need to build better roads between farms and markets, and develop water irrigation, which is particularly crucial to rice farming, Zeigler said. Also, in Africa much of the farming is done by a woman using hoes, often while carrying babies. In rice farming, where level fields are crucial to proper water distribution, fertilization and impeding weeds, farms will have to start using simple two-wheeled ploughs with small diesel or gasoline engines.

Finally, Africa would have to develop a network of agricultural researchers.

AFP

Article Categories

AGRA agribusiness agrochemicals agroforestry aid Algeria aloe vera Angola aquaculture banana barley beans beef bees Benin biodiesel biodiversity biof biofuel biosafety biotechnology Botswana Brazil Burkina Faso Burundi CAADP Cameroon capacity building cashew cassava cattle Central African Republic cereals certification CGIAR Chad China CIMMYT climate change cocoa coffee COMESA commercial farming Congo Republic conservation agriculture cotton cow pea dairy desertification development disease diversification DRCongo drought ECOWAS Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia EU EUREPGAP events/meetings exports fa fair trade FAO fertilizer finance fisheries floods flowers food security fruit Gabon Gambia gender issues Ghana GM crops grain green revolution groundnuts Guinea Bissau Guinea Conakry HIV/AIDS honey hoodia horticulture ICIPE ICRAF ICRISAT IFAD IITA imports India infrastructure innovation inputs investment irrigation Ivory Coast jatropha kenaf keny Kenya khat land deals land management land reform Lesotho Liberia Libya livestock macadamia Madagascar maize Malawi Mali mango marijuana markets Mauritania Mauritius mechanization millet Morocco Mozambique mushroom Namibia NEPAD Niger Nigeria organic agriculture palm oil pastoralism pea pest control pesticides pineapple plantain policy issues potato poultry processing productivity Project pyrethrum rai rain reforestation research rice rivers rubber Rwanda SADC Sao Tome and Principe seed seeds Senegal sesame Seychelles shea butter Sierra Leone sisal soil erosion soil fertility Somalia sorghum South Africa South Sudan Southern Africa spices standards subsidies Sudan sugar sugar cane sustainable farming Swaziland sweet potato Tanzania tariffs tea tef tobacco Togo tomato trade training Tunisia Uganda UNCTAD urban farming value addition value-addition vanilla vegetables water management weeds West Africa wheat World Bank WTO yam Zambia Zanzibar zero tillage Zimbabwe

  © 2007 Africa News Network design by Ourblogtemplates.com

Back to TOP