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FAO and global partners plan to bridge African rice production gap

by Justice Lee Adoboe ACCRA (Xinhua) -- The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and its global partners are working to support Africa’s Rice Initiative, seeking to bridge the gap in rice supply, Bukar Tijani, FAO Regional Representative for Africa, said here on Thursday.

He noted that Africans’ taste was shifting fast from traditional staples to rice, causing an increase in the import bill for the commodity.

"The African Development Bank is putting import bills in excess of 35 billion dollars on a yearly basis," Tijani pointed out while opening a two-day Regional Technical Workshop for 10 counties benefiting from Venezuela’s support for the Africa Rice Initiative.

He said, in the face of global dwindling economies, there was the need to look inward to see how best African countries could save themselves and their partners the high import bills.

Tijani stressed: "It is not just for the food security and the nutrition aspect but also for the businesses that it could bring and the savings that we could get if we put sustainable systems in Africa; savings in terms of our import bills."

The Rice Initiative supported by Venezuela seeks to assist smallholder farmers increase their yield and make their finishing competitive enough for local consumers.

National Coordinators from Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea (Conakry), Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda are attending the workshop.

Out of the 47 countries under its purview in Sub-Saharan Africa, the FAO under the Coalition for Africa Rice Development (CARD) supports 23 countries, including Ghana in their rice development strategies.

Peter Annadumba, Director for South-South Cooperation, said the FAO was also in a big partnership with China in helping African countries to increase rice production to ensure food security.

"FAO also has a big partnership with China and currently under the Rice Initiative, China is supporting Madagascar in terms of rice production, they are going to be supporting Cape Verde also in rice production.

"There are other Chinese programs that FAO is partnering with where we know that in Cameroon and in Tanzania, China has set up these agriculture demonstration centers for rice production where we are doing rice breeding over there.

"This is solely funded by China.

"As a result of these initiatives, rice production in the last two years has doubled," Annadumba added.



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