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Monday, 07 March 2016

Rice: Africa’s Ticket Out of Poverty

Africa is eating more rice than other food staples, though it produces less than it needs. This is good news for the cereal’s potential to help Sub Saharan Africa out of poverty according to researchers. Rice is the second most important source of calories in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), a research organisation working to contribute to poverty alleviation and food security. Thanks to fast urbanising Africa, consumption of rice is growing by six per cent annually. “Rice is important for Africa food security and the reasons are clear,” AfricaRice Center, Deputy Director General, Marco Wopereis, told IPS, adding that “consumers like it and the consumption growth is just mind boggling as a result of population and change of preference as people in cities want food that can be prepared quickly and stored easily and rice is just perfect for that.” Projections are that in 25 years, the world will be eating 110 million tonnes more of milled rice and one third of that will be eaten in Africa, according to him. Grown in 40 out of 54 countries in Africa, rice is the most important agricultural activity and source of income for more than 35 million smallholder rice farmers. However, current demand for rice is outpacing local production which covers only 60 per cent of requirements. As a result, the continent is spending more than US$5 billion annually on importing 12.5 million tonnes of rice each year. This accounts for 32 per cent of the world’s rice imports, making Africa one of the largest rice importers in the world and a major player in the rice trade. This situation is changing, says Wopereis, who is convinced that the rice sector represents a route out of poverty for Africa. Under its 2011-2020 Strategic Plan, AfricaRice has prioritised improving yields and the quality of rice in Africa. “We have seen after 2008 a tremendous increase in production and good news came out of Africa we have seen yields gone up by 30 per cent reaching 2,1 tonnes on average per hectare in 2012,” he said, noting that since then yields have remained flat but production has increased in area.

Source: Inter Press Service