FAO Urges African Govts To Increase Investment In Rice Sector

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called for enhanced leadership and increased investment by African governments in the rice sector to sustain the momentum towards the attainment of rice self-sufficiency.

Bukar Tijani, Assistant Director General and Regional Representative, FAO, made the call on Thursday while addressing the high level Ministerial Conference on Rice in Dakar, Senegal.

The address said that such investments would ensure creation of gainful employment for the youth and women along the entire rice value chain.

Tijani, who is also a former Nigeria Minister of State for Agriculture and Water Resources,  Tijani expressed dismay that rice, a staple food in many African countries, was 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 was to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.

He said this could only be achieved through sustaining a higher rate of production and productivity along the rice value-chain.

The FAO official noted 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 and appropriate and adequate institutional mechanisms.

The former minister identified such mechanisms to include national rice platforms that facilitated enhanced investment and effective coordination of multi-stakeholders in the rice sector.

“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.

Tijani pledged to continue to support regional and national efforts on sustainable intensification of rice production along the whole value-chain of the African rice transformation agenda.

He said that FAO had strengthened its partnership with various organisations to support the African Union Commission and Regional Economic Communities to boost productivity, strengthen rice value chains and support improved coordination of regional markets.

He said the organisations include AfricaRice, African Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development as well as Coalition for African Rice Development and International Rice Research Institute.

The FAO representative explained that the organisations would promote and disseminate the best practices on rice to other countries, contribute immensely to improvements in seeds, post-harvest, irrigation and technology adoption.

He, however, stressed the need to strengthening partnerships and collaboration among technical and donor partners at the country level, such as enhancing mutual accountabilities for results.

Tijani said that the ongoing conference would delve into strengthening synergies and effective collaboration between national governments, development partners, private sectors and producer organisations.

He said that with the huge potential benefits for investments in Africa’s rice sector, the urgency to implement appropriate strategies to realise the opportunities provided by Africa’s strategic commodities cannot be overemphasised.

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