By 2020, a huge amount of 7 billion U.S. dollars a year would be required for all of the rice imports needed for feeding Africa according to the estimates of the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
This prediction by the FAO was made by Abebe Haile-Gabriel, Officer-In-Charge of the FAO Regional Office for Africa while speaking at the opening of a two-day conference on Sustainable Rice Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This huge requirement of money means that there would be requirement for efficient and effective leadership as well as political along with concerted efforts for either generating the amount from internal sources or become self-sufficient in rice production so that it is able to feed its population and thereby bring an end to hunger related issues in the vast continent.
The UN has taken up a rice production and self sufficiency program called the African Rice Project under the UN South-South Cooperation program. One of the major development partners that support the South-South Cooperation program especially in Africa and Asia is China.
In 2015 alone, about 36 percent of their rice requirements had been imported by countries in Africa which cost a total of about US 4 billion dollars according to the official data published by FAO.
“The projection for 2020 do not seem to change that percentage: only that the drain on foreign exchange to foot the import bills are expected to rise to 7 billion dollars annually,” the official said.
According to Haile-Gabriel, the importance of the African continent reaching self sufficiency in rice production has multiple advantages for the continent. Haile-Gabriel claims that such self sufficiency in rice production would not only help the continent to meet the necessary targets of domestic consumption of the crop for the people but also would have a multiplier effect on saving on valuable foreign currency reserves of the countries in the region and then the government and authorities there can reallocate the much needed foreign exchanges in other important areas. Such money saved can also be invested in the rice value chain development initiatives which would also help government to create and expand employment opportunities for the youth and women of the region.
Delegates from the ministries of food and agriculture of Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, Benin, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Tanzania, Guinea, Kenya and Senegal were also present at the up-scaling conference.
(Adapted from Xinhuanet.com)