A new plan has been announced by the ECOWAS Commission and partners on a new Regional Action Plan to implement its rice policy.
Reports say the project commonly known as the “Rice Offensive”, which is an ECOWAS donor round table, would follow to mobilize the required resources to implement the action plan.
“Producing enough rice to feed the region would require concerted effort and an effectively coordinated synergy of actions from all rice stakeholders in the region to successfully achieve this desired outcome,” says the ECOWAS Commissioner of Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Mr Sekou Sangare.
According to ECOWAS, the region remains at 60 per cent self-sufficiency in rice production. While the total rice production in the 15 countries increased from 8.63 million metric tons in 2010 to 13.72 metric tons (milled equivalent) in 2019, rice consumption grew by 35 per cent, faster than expected with almost 15.83 million metric tons of rice consumed in 2017 alone. Overall, only about 60 per cent of it is produced across West Africa.
Speaking further, the commission said rice yield growth rate of 1.03 per cent per annum does not match the population growth rate of 2.73 per cent. The deficit in the rice supply chain has been met through massive imports from primarily Asian countries.
“West Africa currently depends on imports to meet expanding demand. Not only does this deplete the scarce foreign reserves of countries, but it also undermines indigenous capabilities in the production of rice and its value chain,” says Alain Traore, Director of Agriculture and Rural Development at the ECOWAS Commission.
The Head of Agriculture Division of ECOWAS, Mr Ernest Aubee, said “this project basically is to achieve rice self-sufficiency in all our member states, if we can grow rice, eat what we grow there will not be the need in spending millions of dollars every year on importation of rice from Asia, and some of these (imported) rice, the quality is not better than what produce in West African countries, so we should encourage the consumption of what we produce.
“There is nothing special about foreign rice, some of them are not of the best quality, let us encourage what we produce, by so doing, we will reduce the foreign exchange for importation, we will use that money to invest in other sectors.”
The Rice Offensive was approved by the Council of Ministers in 2014 and launched in 2015 as a policy response to the unusually high level of imports and the need to ensure food and nutrition security in the region.
The goal set by the “Regional Rice Offensive” of the ECOWAS Member States is to reach rice self-sufficiency by 2025, producing the 24 million tons of milled rice that is projected to be consumed in the region.
“The high dependence on rice import, increasing population, mass urbanization and increase in the cost of imported rice in recent times are some of the reasons why we are speeding efforts aimed at the sustainable revival of rice cultivation economy in West Africa,” says Dr Boladale Adebowale, a staff of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the rice policy advisor for ECOWAS.