West Africa's local rice production only covers 60% of the regional demand, while rice is the most consumed grain in the area. Although, West African farmers have the potential to feed its population, the region depends still on import. Structural change will strengthen the position of West African rice farmers on their local market.
West Africa is the world's largest rice importing region. 20% of the volumes traded on the world market are consumed in West Africa, even though the region has the potential to feed its population. However, the volumes produced in West Africa represent on average only 7% of world production, which is not enough to feed the population entirely. This increases the temptation for decision-makers to continue with food policies heavily based on the import of rice. It makes it easy to source homogeneous and well-cleaned rice. However, this dependence of West Africa on rice from elsewhere is problematic, because at the slightest difficulty the (Asian) producer countries will first ensure the food security of their own populations. This is evidenced by the reduction in the export of rice by Asian countries which was a trigger for the surge in prices in Africa in 2008.
Prospects for increased production for import are bleak, not only because populations in Asia continue to grow, but also because of the stagnation of agricultural land due to urbanisation and accelerated industrialisation in eastern countries. In the long term, West African rice food security can no longer depend on food imports. It will depend on the capacity of the region to develop its own rice cultivation - also considering the real threats of climate change as well as the local rice market.
I think it is important to invest in the value chain because it is a source of jobs for young people. The market exists and the production factors are available. On the macro side, investment by the governments in the value chain will reduce foreign exchange losses; they must indeed recognise that rice imports currently account for about 5.2 million tonnes against 1.7 million in the early 1990s.
"I am very proud of Rikolto's achievements in the various countries of intervention. There remains a need for support for the development of different models for access to the farmers’ market, as is the case with institutional purchases in Burkina Faso and Mali. Support also remains necessary for the contribution to development of an integrated financing model for FEPROBA (Federation of producers of the Anambé basin) in Senegal."
Mame Birame Ndiaye
Rice programme officer / focal point for Senegal
I am sure that the rice value chain has a bright future in West Africa because today there are four pillars supporting it. The strong commitment of governments and CEDEAO (Economic Community of West African States) in support of the rice sector, the start of a professionalisation process of actors, in particular producers and processors, the production factors (land and water), and the guaranteed market.