The East African Community secretariat and agriculture development organization, Kilimo Trust on Thursday launched Competitive African Rice Initiative- East Africa.
Stakeholders in the rice production including farmers, millers, local organizations, agriculture ministry officials and development partners from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania converged in Kampala yesterday to establish the initiative meant to offset high level importation of rice into the region.
According to statistics the demand for rice in East Africa is 3.5 million metric tons and the region is only producing 2.4 million metric tonnes of milled rice leaving a deficit 1.1 million metric tons that is imported mainly from Asia. The rate of consumption has been increasing by 9.4% annually over the past decade (2008-2018) and expected to more than double by 2030.
The situation is meanwhile exacerbated by the high postharvest losses of 10% to 20%.
The chairperson of Uganda Rice Millers Association, Amb. Philips Idro said the cost of production should be reduced for farmers to produce competitive rice.
“The cost of production remains high and that is why imported rice is cheaper than locally produced variety in the region,” he said.
The average cost of producing one tonne of rice is said to be $264 and participants want it to reduce to at least $193.
“Farmers should be provided with certified seeds and they stop recycling saved produce. Certified seeds triple the yield of saved seeds,” he said.
The Commissioner of Crop Production, Alex Lwakuba, who represented the minister of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, said government want farmers to adopt and implement the right agronomical practices (methods that increase use soil to maximize production).
“Government is committed to enhancing the capacity of farmers. We want farmers to embrace good agronomic practices,” said Lwakuba.
Dr. John Jagwe, the country (Uganda) manager of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said at the lunch that farmers are currently only fetching 2.5 tons of rice from a hectare, far below their counterparts in Asia.
“We should increase productivity and triple the production from an average 2.5 tons per hectare to at least 8 tons per hectare,” said Dr. Jagwe.
The 60% yield gap in East Africa is attributed to limited use of quality inputs like improved seeds, fertilizers and low adaptability of farmers to climate change effects.
Meanwhile rice import into the region has been growing at 12.4 percent. In 2017 EAC region imported 893,192 metric tonnes of rice worth USD$377m.
The initiative is commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development trhough the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.