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01.03.2009 Africa

Rice price crisis offers opportunity for Africa, says WARDA

By Godwin Atser

The global food crisis which sent rice prices above $1000 per tonne last year is an opportunity for African countries to better their economies, the Deputy Director-General of Africa Rice Center (WARDA), Dr. Marco Wopereis has said.

The price crisis has actually made rice farming profitable for farmers, he said at a media conference after the opening of the annual planning meeting on Stress-Tolerant Rice for poor farmers in Africa and South Asia (STRASA), in Ibadan .

Last year, global food price hikes sparked riots in different parts of the world as food stuff touched record highs.

Worst affected were developing nations that depend on food imports to meet their demands.

Wopereis said though prices subsided, the threats have not gone away.

Currently, rice prices are trading at about $400 per tonne, but high prices are expected to remain for the next decade or two, according to forecasts.

Despite Africa s favorable climate conditions, records in 2006 from WARDA show that sub Saharan Africa for instance imports around 40 percent of rice, costing about $2 billion.

Most of these imports come from Asia which is being affected by the negative effects of climatic change that has resulted in dwindling water reserves.

It therefore means that supply from Asia in the future may not be guaranteed, Wopereis said as he called on African nations to take action in order to become self-sufficient in rice production.

According to him, there was a need for African governments to invest more in research, adding that WARDA and its partners will continue to offer solutions that will improve yields on farmers fields.

He described STRASA as a strategic partnership in rice research aimed at addressing the constraints faced by rice farmers in Africa by tapping technologies from Asian countries.

Funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the STRASA project involves international researchers from IRRI and the Africa Rice Center as well as partners from national agricultural research institutes, government extension and civil society groups in 15 countries.

The project focuses on the major rainfed ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia .It aims to accelerate the development and delivery of improved rice varieties that are tolerant of five major stresses drought, submergence, salinity, iron toxicity and low temperature.

An important thrust of the project is to enhance the capacity in national research and technology transfer systems for sustained rice improvement efforts.

Africa Rice Center is IRRIs main partner in implementing the African component of this project. The project member countries in Africa comprise Benin , Burkina Faso , The Gambia, Ghana , Guinea , Mali , Nigeria and Senegal in West Africa as well as Ethiopia , Madagascar , Mozambique , Rwanda , Liberia , Tanzania and Uganda in eastern and southern Africa .

Dr. Baboucarr Manneh, Coordinator of the African component of STRASA, highlighted the achievements of the project as follows:

* Production of seeds of improved and stress-tolerant varieties that will be evaluated in the project countries through farmer participatory varietal selection;

* Training of national scientists, technicians and farmers in modern breeding approaches, improved seed production and impact assessment;

* Implementation of improved and standardized screening facilities at the research stations of Africa Rice Center for the different stresses; and

* Establishment of a network of national scientists and partners in the project countries.

For more information, please contact,
Dr. Olupomi Ajayi,
WARDA's Nigeria Liaison officer
[email protected]

About WARDA

The Africa Rice Center (WARDA) is a leading pan-African research organization working to contribute to poverty alleviation and food security in Africa through research, development and partnership activities. It is one of the 15 international agricultural research Centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It is also an autonomous intergovernmental research association of African member countries.

The Center was created in 1971 by 11 African countries. Today its membership comprises 22 countries, covering West, Central, East and North African regions, namely Benin , Burkina Faso , Cameroon , Central African Republic , Chad , Cte dIvoire , Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt , the Gambia , Ghana , Guinea , Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali , Mauritania , Niger , Nigeria , Republic of Congo , Senegal , Sierra Leone , Togo and Uganda .

WARDAs temporary headquarters is based in Cotonou , Benin ; research staff are also based in Senegal , Nigeria , Tanzania and Cte dIvoire .

For more information visit: www.africaricecenter.org

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