Africa launches project to improve rice production
The Benin Republic-based African Rice Centre (WARDA) has launched a project aimed at improving rice production in sub-Saharan Africa.
The project, initiated in collaboration with Japan, will strengthen WARDA's plan to boost rice production by 2010 and beyond through improved access by farmers to quality seeds in 20 sub-Saharan African countries, in a bid to reduce rice imports and avoid costly food aid operations.
The project, launched on Monday, plans to produce in each country certified and registered seeds of the improved variety, including NERICA, while establishing sustained links between the public and private sectors.
WARDA said rice was especially targeted given that, together with wheat, it is one of the main crops for which demand is much higher than supply at the local level.
Sub-Saharan rice imports in 2006 were estimated at about 9 millions tons worth US$2 billion.
At current prices, imports will cost over US$5 billion.
World rice stocks have been lower than ever since 1983/1984, and African countries can no longer rely on the Asian market to meet the needs of their growing population, the centre said.