Asian rice producers offer support to double African rice output by 2018
TOKYO, June 5 (Kyodo) - Five Southeast Asian rice-producing countries as well as Egypt and Brazil offered their support Thursday for sub-Saharan Africa to achieve a goal of doubling annual rice output in the area by 2018 from the current level of about 14 million tons, officials of Japan's aid agency said.
Major rice producers Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam highlighted their experience of developing the staple food at a Tokyo meeting of an international network, which was set up last year by Japanese and international agencies to help African nations realize the target.
About 140 people, including representatives of 14 African nations, took part in the two-day gathering of the network, known as the ''Coalition for African Rice Development.'' The Japan International Cooperation Agency spearheaded the creation of the coalition.
A JICA official said the conference provided a ''matchmaking'' opportunity for African nations and their supporters to promote cooperation.
Thailand and Indonesia have already dispatched personnel to aid rice production in Sudan and Madagascar, respectively, and Vietnam is interested in assisting rice projects in Mozambique, he said.
African countries generally welcomed the offer by the Asian rice producers, but some said Asian experience cannot directly be applied to Africa due to differences in conditions, the official said.
During the meeting, 12 African countries presented their national rice development strategies. The most ambitious plan among them was to raise rice output ninefold by 2018, according to the official.
Nine other African nations will likely start compiling their strategies around the year-end, he said.
At the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama in May last year, Japan called for aiming to double African rice production in a decade.
The multi-stakeholder coalition was launched on the sidelines of the TICAD meeting.
Although demand for rice in sub-Saharan Africa has been sharply growing, nearly half the rice consumed there is imported because domestically produced rice is generally of low quality and lacks price competitiveness compared with imports from Asian countries, including Thailand, Vietnam and Pakistan, the official said. (Kyodo)