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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs