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Nigeria takes drastic measures to ensure local rice production

Nigeria has taken drastic measures to develop its local rice production, riding on the coattails of Mali, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.

Some 300bn CFA francs for Côte d’Ivoire, around 190bn for Senegal and about 163bn for Cameroon: these are the amounts the three countries spend annually on rice imports to make up for their production shortfall.

In recent years, however, they have undertaken (like every state in the region, beginning with Nigeria) to attain self-sufficiency as rapidly as possible. In Dakar, this goal was slated to be reached in 2017, but ultimately Senegal came up short. Abuja is aiming for 2022, Niamey 2021 and Abidjan has set 2025 as its target date. Governments are grappling with food security and national sovereignty questions.

 

In West Africa, rice, more than any other grain, is strategic. Due to the convergence of multiple factors, including demographic growth, urbanisation and increased individual needs, rice consumption has quadrupled in 30 years, according to the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD).

COVID-19 raises the stakes of food self-sufficiency

“Despite progress made in increasing local production, particularly through the expansion of rice growing fields, the region has to import the equivalent of 45% of its total rice consumption,compared to 40% at the beginning of the 2010s and only 20% in the 1960s and 70s,” says Patricio Méndez del Villar, a senior researcher specialising in rice at CIRAD.

As a result, the region’s rice imports – primarily coming from Asia – have skyrocketed, tripling between 1990 and 2018 to represent around one-fourth of the world’s rice imports, according to CIRAD.

Although countries made efforts to counter this trend by aiding production and imposing import barriers, the 2008 financial crisis broke their momentum: faced with surging rice prices, they abandoned protectionist measures in an effort to prevent shortages and rioting.

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