May 10, 2018

11/05/2018: Road ahead of rice production in East Africa

by Shem Oirere, Journalist, East Africa

Eastern Africa is struggling to meet the region's increasing demand for rice as policy constraints, an unstructured market regime and changes in global rice trade magazines hamper fast-tracking of production, processing and marketing programmes by countries in this sub Saharan market.

Although the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) says production has been increasing albeit slowly, the rice sub sector in the region does not “meet market demand partly due to inadequate market linkages from surplus to deficit regions and unfavourable trade policy.”

Eastern Africa has the potential to expand rice production and trade but because of the “prevailing rice market challenges including informal, insufficient and unstructured markets coupled with policy constraints and changes in global rice trade dynamics have negatively impacted the rice trade” according to Jacinta Mwau of EAGC.

By the end of 2017 countries in Eastern Africa were importing rice worth US$500 million annually to meet the production and processing deficit according to the EAGC.

Kenya's former Permanent Secretary for Agriculture Dr Romano Kiome previously said the potential for expanding rice production and processing in the region “has not received adequate attention with regard to policy and institutional support.”

Kiome said for the case of Kenya, the rice sub sector has potential “to enhance food security and livelihood for the majority of urban and rural poor” if only the constraints to increasing production, processing and marketing are effectively addressed by both the public and private sector.

Demand for rice in Kenya is estimated at 300,000 metric tonnes yet the country's production capacity is approximately 45,000 to 80,000 metric tonnes.

This huge production deficit is currently being addressed through a 10-year National Rice Development Strategy that was launched in 2008 and ends this year. However, previous efforts to narrow the deficit/supply gap may not have achieved much set targets as envisaged in the plan according to Mr Zachary Mwangi, the Director General of Kenya Bureau of Statistics.

He says in the 2017 Economic Survey although the area under rice production increased by 4.2 percent to 14,586 hectares in 2016 up from 13,998 hectares in 2015, production dropped by 12.9 percent.

Mr Mwangi says Kenya produced 101,500 tonnes of rice in 2016 down from the 116,500 tonnes for 2015.

“The decline was precipitated by the dry weather conditions resulting in insufficient water for irrigation in rice growing areas,” he said.

Rice in Kenya is produced in Nyanza, Central, Western and Coastal regions where for major rice milling plants have been developed with capacity to process more than 33 tonnes of rice.

Read the full article, HERE.

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