News / Africa

Africa’s Appetite for Rice Surges Beyond Capacity of Growers

Mamady Douno, a rice farmer, shows technical assistants his crop of a new rice variety near Maferenya, Guinea in this Aug. 19, 2002 photo.
Mamady Douno, a rice farmer, shows technical assistants his crop of a new rice variety near Maferenya, Guinea in this Aug. 19, 2002 photo.
Ntaryike Divine Jr.
A few decades ago, rice was a luxury for rural Africa, a dish reserved for the big occasions like Christmas.  The grain is now one of the most consumed staples south of the Sahara and experts predict surging urbanization will drive more demand for the cereal as consumer tastes increasingly tilt towards easy-to-cook convenience foods.
 
Across Africa, rice currently knows no social or class boundaries. Increasingly, the grain ranks high on the menus of both rural and urban households.
 
One consumer on the streets of Douala said, “I often buy a bag of rice for the family that will last about a month.” Another added, “Three days out of seven, we eat rice at home. Sometimes, it’s up to four times a week.”
 
Listen to report on rice in Africa (by Divine Ntaryike)
Listen to report on rice in Africa (by Divine Ntaryike)i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The reason for its popularity is that rice is more affordable now and easier to store and cook. Yet, despite its swelling weight in the shopping baskets of Africans, the continent’s production continues to lag far behind demand.  Africa produces barely half of its rice needs and consequently depends heavily on imports to bridge demand-supply rifts.
 
Rice consumes foreign reserves
 
Boubakar Mane is a researcher at the Africa Rice Center, a leading research organization based in Cotonou, Benin. “Actually, Africa is producing about 60 percent and importing about 40 percent of what it consumes. And this amounts to a huge loss of our meager foreign exchange reserves every year.”
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the continent’s imports of milled rice - mainly from Asian growers - hit a record 12-million-ton high in 2012, costing over US$5 billion. That’s up from 10 million tons in 2009.
 
Experts warn that the heavy reliance on imports is risky and untenable as current economic forecasts predict rising prices in a volatile market and dwindling global stocks over the coming decade.
 
“What we call the world rice market is very thin,” said the African Rice Center’s Mane. “Only about 6 percent of all the rice produced in the world is actually placed on the international rice market and it is very sensitive to shocks which can come easily with climate change.”
 
Storms disrupt harvests around the world
 
Mane also warns that changing climates could provoke short-notice supply slumps at any time. The destructive force of Hurricane Haiyan on November 8, for example, has destroyed much of the rice crop in the Philippines and will likely impact the world market.
 
“Serious flooding in some of the major producing countries like China and India can have serious repercussions for the world supply of rice.  And sometimes when people have scares about food supplies in their countries, governments restrict rice exports and our major importers like Cameroon, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and others suffer seriously.”
 
Spikes in the price of rice were responsible for deadly food riots across West Africa back in 2008.  Ever since, the grain has steadily gained attention as a critical role player for food security and political stability throughout the continent. As a result of the public outcry over the price of rice, this cereal has attained increased status as a major “political crop” capable of creating or destroying the political, social or economic stability of African nations.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More