By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE African Agricultural Technology Foundation, AATF, and partners have expressed readiness to increase rice production and export in Sub-Saharan Africa, SSA, with a target of 1.3 million tonnes annually.
This was disclosed by the Executive Director, AATF, Dr Denis Kyetere, during the meeting held on Nitrogen-Use Efficient, Water-Use Efficient and Salt Tolerant Rice, NEWEST, Rice Project Annual Review and Planning at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan, Oyo State.
Scientists from AATF, National Cereal Research Institute, NCRI, Badegi, Nigeria, Crop Research Institute, CRI, Kumasi, Ghana, National Research Organisation, NARO, Uganda, Arcadia Biosciences, USA and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, CIAT, Colombia, formed the team that has been working on the development of this variety, NEWEST . The project was funded by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID.
According to Kyetere the goal of the project was to develop, disseminate farmer preferred, locally adapted rice varieties with enhanced nitrogen, water use efficiency and salt tolerance, which would lead to food sufficiency, adding that food self-sufficiency in rice will drastically reduce rice importation and capital flight of limited foreign exchange.
He said: “There will be improved rice yields resulting in enhanced household food security and production of marketable crop surplus.”
“Also abandoned croplands will be reclaimed reducing land shortages; an additional 1.3million tons of rice will be produced in Africa each year, reducing the current deficit by 10 per cent.”
In his remark, Director, Information and Documentation Department, National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI), Dr Mohammed Ishiaq, noted and emphasised that rice demand exceeded production in most Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ishiaq who represented the NCRI Executive Director, Dr Samuel Agboire, lamented insufficient rice production, which has affected well-being of over 20 million smallholder farmers who depend on rice as a staple food.
“SSA countries are spending more than US$5billion annually on rice imports, rice production deficit along with large outflow of foreign exchange presents great development challenge to governments in SSA. Low yields experienced by farmers are responsible for rice imports in SSA where over 40 per cent of the rice consumed is imported. Also nitrogen deficiency has been cited as a major constraint to rice production; nitrogen is difficult to maintain when applied in lowland areas due to floods”, he said.
According to the project manager, Dr Kayode Sanni, the project started in 2008 and that the essence was to have excess rice production and reduce its importation by or before 2020.
“Improving the nitrogen use efficiency of rice is one means of achieving this goal. With the utilisation and application of water use efficient component, the rice will require less water and this will offer an appreciable coping mechanism against drought”, he said.