Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called on African countries to put in place the right policies, strategies and appropriate institutional mechanisms to boost rice production and reduce importation.
Bukar Tijani, Assistant Director General and Regional Representative, FAO made this call on Thursday while addressing the high level Ministerial Conference on Rice in Dakar, Senegal.
He said in the address, which was e-mailed to our correspondent in Abuja, that FAO would continue to support regional and national efforts to boost rice production along the value-chain of the African rice transformation agenda.
Tijani, a former Nigeria Minister of State for Agriculture and Water Resources, stressed the need for enhanced leadership and increased investment by African governments in the rice sector.
He explained that this would indeed help sustain the momentum toward the attainment of rice self-sufficiency and the creation of gainful employment for the youth and women along the entire rice value chain.
According to him, with the huge potential benefits for investments in Africa’s rice sector, there is the need for urgency in implementing appropriate strategies to realise the opportunities provided by Africa’s strategic commodities
The FAO officials said further that those countries that had successfully increased their rice production was an indication of their government leadership in putting in place the right policies, strategies, appropriate and adequate institutional mechanisms
He identified such mechanisms to include national rice platforms that have facilitated, enhanced investment and effective coordination of multi-stakeholders in the rice sector.
Tijani said that FAO had strengthened its partnership with various organisations to support the African Union Commission and Regional Economic Communities to boost productivity, strengthening rice value chains, and supporting improved coordination of regional markets.
He said some organisations, which include AfricaRice, African Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Coalition for African Rice Development and International Rice Research Institute would promote and disseminate the best practices on rice to other countries
Tijani said FAO had also promised to contribute immensely to improvements in seeds, post-harvest, irrigation and technology adoption.
According to the former minister, it is still very unfortunate to note that rice, a staple in many African countries, is still heavily imported.
“Data shows that in 2015 alone, African countries imported about 36 per cent of their domestic rice requirements, amounting to over 4 billion dollars.
“Projection also forecast that by 2020, the amount would reach 4.8 billion dollars annually, and this is unacceptable,’’ he said.
Tijani, however, said that with the demand for rice consumption in Africa currently increasing at a rapid rate of 5.5 per cent per annum, the only option for countries to be on track on development goals is to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.
He said self sufficiency in rice could only be achieved through sustaining a higher rate of production and productivity along the rice value-chain.
“In the prevailing circumstances, self-sufficiency in rice for Africa will be strategic and consequential, not just in terms of meeting consumption requirements locally, but also through its multiplier effects.
“These include reallocating the much-needed foreign exchange and investing in rice-value chain development, an area that has the potential of creating and expanding employment opportunities for youth and women,’’ he said.
He, however, said there is still need to strengthening partnerships and collaboration among technical and donor partners at the country level, such as enhancing mutual accountability for results.
Tijani said that the ongoing conference would delve into strengthening synergies and effective collaboration between national governments.