FAO Regional Office for Africa

As rice import bills rise, African countries must sustain growth

Policies geared towards rice self-sufficiency high on agenda of ministerial conference

FAO is actively consolidating partnerships with regional and global development partners to support the transformation of Africa’s rice sector, (Photo: ©Sebastian Liste)

25 September 2018, Dakar — The only option for meeting the fast increase in demand for consumption of rice in Africa, estimated at about 5.5% per annum, and achieving rice self-sufficiency and reducing rice import bills, is to sustain higher levels of rice production and productivity.

This is one of the most critical topics addressed in the High Level Ministerial Conference on Rice in Dakar, Senegal.

African countries imported about 36% of their rice requirements in 2015, totalling to more than USD 4 billion annually. Today, more than one-half of the 43 rice-producing countries in Africa are rice importers, with varying degrees ranging between 10% and 93%, said Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Regional Programme Leader for Africa.

Speaking at the Conference, he called on African countries to commit to creating and rigorously implementing favourable policy regimes for rice self-sufficiency and sustaining growth in Africa’s rice industry. That action, he added, helps significantly reduce the risk of food crises and contribute towards the Zero Hunger goal.

“We need policy commitments, and public and private sector investments and we must be focused on at least three priority areas—improving rice seed systems and associated farm inputs; out scaling rice technologies and innovations; and popularizing small-scale mechanization,” he stressed.

The FAO official praised countries that have successfully increased their rice production through leadership of governments, which made efforts in implementing right policies, strategies, and appropriate and adequate institutional mechanisms.

“FAO is optimistic that enhanced leadership and increased investment by African governments in the rice sector would help sustain the momentum towards the attainment of rice self-sufficiency and the creation of gainful employment for the youth and women along the entire rice value chain,” Abebe Haile-Gabriel added.

“For instance, national rice platforms have facilitated enhanced investment and effective coordination of multi-stakeholders in the rice sector and been an important feature of rice policy reform, bringing together seed producers, farmers and women groups who have received support on business plan development,” he emphasized.

However, such success achieved in rice production should not hide the fact that there are still significant challenges in the sector.

Consolidating ties to boost rice production

FAO is actively consolidating partnerships with regional and global development partners to support the transformation of Africa’s rice sector by boosting productivity, strengthening rice value chains and supporting improved coordination of regional markets.

Strengthening ties with other organizations such as (AfricaRice, Coalition for African Rice Development, the African Development Bank, etc.) to promote and disseminate best practices on rice available to countries is working out effectively.

“These partnerships have contributed to improvements in seeds, post-harvest, irrigation and technology adoption,” Abebe Haile-Gabriel noted.

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 on reallocating the much-needed foreign exchanges and investing in rice-value chain development.

The conference organised by the FAO, the African Development Bank, AfricaRice, and the Government of Senegal, looks into generating a more collective policy direction and support. The event will be the platform towards discussion of the implementation of investment programs on the attainment of rice self-sufficiency in African countries and the creation of gainful employment for the youth and women along the entire rice value chain.

It will highlight the needed technical expertise, technologies, investment opportunities including private sector investments and the role of different actors required to reach the goal of rice self-sufficiency in Africa.

The meeting will delve into further guidance for strengthening synergies and effective collaboration between national governments, development partners, the private sector and producer organizations so that Africa’s rice sector can achieve its full potential as a platform for regional agricultural growth and rural transformation.