… As stakeholders intensify call for increased domestic rice production
A cross section of stakeholders including policy makers, scientists and farmers attending the annual review meeting of the NEWEST Rice project of the AATF has called for increased domestic production of rice on the African continent to meet the ever-increasing demand.
The AATF rice project manager, Dr Kayode Sanni, said in an opening address to the meeting that there was urgent need to increase domestic production in Sub-Saharan Africa to meet demand of rapidly growing population.
“Rice is a strategic crop for food security in Africa, consumption currently stands at 33.2million MT of milled rice of which 12 million is imported, importation is expected to reach over 20 million MT by 2026,” he said.
Sanni noted that low yield associated with rice in Africa was worrisome as farmers in the continent were only producing 2.2 MT/ha as compared to global average of over 4.5 MT/ha.
One of the challenges responsible for the low productivity is the fact that 4.4 million tons of nitrogen is lost from Africa’s soils yearly while over 80 per cent of agricultural land is nitrogen deficient and over 70 per cent of rice farmers are smallholders without access to or ability to purchase fertilizers, he added.
The director-general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, said at the meeting that soil nitrogen deficiency and drought had been cited as key constraints to rice production in Africa and Nigeria by extension.
According to him, with majority of farmers unable to buy and apply the required rate of fertiliser for optimal yield, nitrogen deficiency remains a key concern. He noted that nitrogen deficiency is predominant in rain-fed (both upland and lowland) areas and mostly acute in the highly weathered upland areas (about 38 per cent of the cultivated rice area) where an average yield of only one ton per hectare, which is about 25 per cent of yield potential.
“In lowland areas (33 per cent of the cultivated rice area), it is difficult to retain applied nitrogen due to floods and flowing water that characterise such areas. On the other hand, 80 per cent of rice farms traditionally depend on the unreliable rainfall and are unable to afford irrigation facilities making drought a major concern.
“Improving the nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) of rice is one means of overcoming the nitrogen deficiency limitation. Estimates indicate that with 50 per cent less nitrogen fertilizer, yields would go up by 20 per cent more than with conventional rice,” he said. A statement by the communication officer, West and Central Africa, Alex Abutu, said the NEWEST Project had the goals of developing and disseminating farmers’ preferred and locally adapted rice varieties with enhanced Nitrogen-Use Efficiency, Water-Use Efficiency and Salt Tolerance (NEWEST).