June 05, 2015

05/04/2015: Commodities: Rice research

Africa to expand rice production area by half to become global leader

Dr Robert S Zeigler, IRRI

First published in Milling and Grain, March 2015


Between 2014 and 2031, Africa will expand its rice production area by almost 50 percent to become a global leader, according to analysis on the global rice production and demand according to IHS Inc the leading global source of critical information and insight.

IHS has been in business since 1959 and became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in 2005. Headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, IHS employs approximately 8000 people in 31 countries around the world. 

Key findings of new IHS analysis:

  1. Africa’s rapid expansion of areas for rice production will be the fastest globally in percentage terms
  2. Asian demand, mainly from China, is driving a majority of the growth in rice consumption during 2014/15
  3. However, Africa’s rice import demand is driving much of the world’s long-term import growth
  4. With a lower Indian rice production estimate due to issues relating to a later monsoon, India is forecast to lose its spot as top exporter in 2014/15 to Thailand
Africa out-paces the rest
Africa’s rapid expansion of areas for rice production will be the fastest globally, in percentage terms. Across sub-Saharan Africa, the development of the agriculture sector is viewed by many countries as a way to: Diversify their economies away from excessive dependence on the mining sub-sector; increase employment prospects and enhance poverty reduction.

“Cote d’Ivoire plans to spend US$4 billion on agriculture development in order to improve crop yields and, in four years, become a rice exporter,” said Karanta Kalley, chief economist for Africa at IHS.

The Ebola question mark
However, economic development, especially in West Africa, has a question mark hanging over it. 

“Right now, the question on everyone’s mind is what the impact of Ebola will be on the economic growth of sub-Saharan Africa,” Kalley said.

IHS expects real gross domestic product (GDP) growth to be curbed significantly for 2014 in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as a result of the ongoing Ebola outbreak.


The IHS real GDP growth rate forecasts have been cut between one-half and nine-tenths of previous forecasts, with Sierra Leone’s economy projected to have the highest rate of growth at 3.1 percent followed Guinea at 2.0 percent. IHS foresees only a marginal real economic growth rate of 0.8 percent for Liberia’s economy.

The spread of Ebola is still a concern for Nigeria, the region’s economic and population giant.  

“Public awareness and facilities in Lagos are better than in the Sierra Leone-Guinea-Liberia triangle, so the chances are fairly good that Nigeria can restrict its outbreak,” Kalley said. 

“Although agriculture has dropped from 35 percent of the Nigerian economy to 22 percent due to the recent data criteria change, prospects for Nigeria’s real economic growth for the rest of 2014 are bright.”

Asian demand drives global rice growth in 2014/15; Africa drives long-term growth
World rice demand for 2014/15 is forecast to rise to 478 million tonnes, a 4.4-million-tonne increase from the previous year. For 2015/16, world rice demand is expected to increase by 4.5 million tonnes, to 483 million tonnes.

“Asian demand, mainly from China, is driving a majority of the growth in rice consumption during 2014/15,” said IHS senior economist Brandon Kliethermes. 

“However, Africa’s rice import demand is driving much of the world’s long-term import growth.”

World rice yields in 2014/15 are expected to soften year over year to 2.96 tonnes per hectare, but world production is projected to increase by a little over one million metric tons.
With a lower Indian rice production estimate due to issues relating to a later monsoon, India is forecast to lose its spot as top exporter in 2014/15.

“Thailand is forecast to regain its spot as top exporter,” Kliethermes said. “With the military government in Thailand aggressively trying to find a solution to their large rice inventory, Thai rice exports are expected to increase.”

Longer term, Thailand and India will battle for the top exporter position, with both exporting more than 12 million metric tons per year.

Image: matsuyuki
Burundi rice development hub
Burundi has turned its rice research capacity up a notch to improve food security in Eastern and Southern Africa by establishing a regional rice research and development hub with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

In his speech at the official opening of the new ‘Robert S. Zeigler’ building that will house IRRI’s Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office, First Vice-President of Burundi, His Excellency Bernard Busokoza stated that the government strongly supports further collaboration between IRRI and Burundi to improve the region’s rice production and support the fight against food insecurity.

Poverty reduction
Mr Busokoza said that the Government of Burundi and IRRI share the same vision: to provide sustainable methods of growing rice to improve the well-being of rice producers and consumers, to reduce poverty and preserve the environment.

The regional office focuses on developing and testing new rice varieties matched to the different rice production ecologies across Eastern and Southern Africa. 

To support IRRI’s activities, Mr Busokoza also announced that the government had granted IRRI use of a 10ha plot of land at Gihanga for its rice research.

IRRI’s objective in Burundi is to enhance the national capability in research on rice and rice-based systems in the country. 

IRRI first started working in Burundi in 2008 when a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the country and IRRI was signed. The beginnings of this agreement were first born when current IRRI Liaison Scientist and Coordinator for Burundi, Joseph Bigirimana, attended the Rice Research to Production Training Course at IRRI in 2006 where he met with IRRI management.

By October 2013, key government, IRRI and Africa Rice officials gathered for the inauguration of the regional, as part of the IRRI Board of Trustees meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi. The new building was named after IRRI’s current director general, Dr Robert S. Zeigler.

Dr Zeigler was recognised for his many years of work in development agriculture as a scientist and research leader in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the United States. 

“I’m very optimistic that this regional hub will substantially contribute to the development of the rice sector in Eastern and Southern Africa, and build our collaboration with our partners in Burundi and the greater region,” Dr Zeigler added.

Image: Rubber Dragon
Interim director general of Africa Rice Dr Adama Traor√© also attended and highlighted the importance of Asia-Africa knowledge exchange that has been made possible by the CGIAR Research Program on Rice, known as the Global Rice Science Partnership. 

IRRI’s deputy director general for research Dr Achim Dobermann highlighted areas where IRRI can contribute to rice research and development with the substantial support of stakeholders.

“It is our vision for Burundi to become a leading regional hub for excellent, high yielding, rice varieties that also have good grain quality,” he said.

IRRI and the Burundian government started collaborating in 2006 through the initiatives of Dr Joseph Bigirimana, who is now the IRRI Regional Coordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa. The first joint project with CARE Burundi was established in 2010, with support from the Howard Buffett Foundation, to train ex-combatant women in rice production.

In 2011, two IRRI-bred rice varieties, Vuninzara (IR77713) and Gwizumwimbu (IR79511), which were developed especially for Burundi, were released. Farmers rank these varieties higher in grain quality of un-milled, milled, and cooked rice than previously popular varieties. IRRI is also sharing rice breeding lines with Burundi that are being tested at a number of IRRI field sites around the country.


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This blog is maintained by The Global Miller staff and is supported by the magazine GFMT
which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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