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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid