“Asia’s rice value chain has undergone a rapid transformation and it is now highly integrated and organized,” said Dr Harold Roy-Macauley, Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) Director General. “We need to identify relevant upstream, midstream and downstream strategies from Asia, which could be applicable in West Africa, to make its rice value chains competitive and transformational, so that they can effectively contribute to food security in the sub-region.”
Making these remarks during a consultation workshop on comparative rice competitiveness, hosted by AfricaRice, 29 January to 1 February 2018, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Dr Roy-Macauley further explained, “The premise of this consultation workshop is that major rice-producing countries of Asia and West Africa have much in common, relating to the development of rice value chains, so it is important to facilitate sharing of knowledge and experience.”
Key ingredients of Asia’s rice success story, such as strong country commitment, enabling policy environment, long-term investments in infrastructure and research, emphasis on the development of the entire value chain, and market-driven approach with focus on consumer needs, were highlighted at the workshop, which was jointly organized by AfricaRice, the World Bank and the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD).
Other critical success factors that emerged were professionalization of value chain actors, strong farmers’ organizations, use of high-yielding varieties and mechanization, credit support system, creation of market outlets for domestic production, private sector participation in the provision of inputs, enabled private sector milling, quality assurance mechanisms, branding and promotional activities, and administered procurement and distribution systems.
Rice is the most important source of food calories in West Africa, and is recognized as a strategic crop by Africa’s heads of state. However, rice production has not been able to satisfy the increases in demand caused by population growth, rapid urbanization and preferences of consumers, who are increasingly more demanding in terms of better quality rice. Local rice sells at a discounted price due to perceptions about its poor quality.
“Our experience with the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP), a World Bank-supported and CORAF/WECARD-facilitated regional program, has shown us that it is not sufficient to increase local rice production and think that it will replace imported rice,” said DrAbdoulaye Touré, Lead Economist, World Bank Agriculture Global Practice. “Our rice value chain needs to be better integrated and capable of competing with imported rice in terms of quality.”
Insights from an ongoing World Bank study on policy, institutional and public/private investment drivers of successful rice value chain development in selected Asian countries (Cambodia, India and Thailand) were presented at the workshop with a view to inform the West Africa Agricultural Transformation Program (WAATP) – a newly proposed World Bank-facilitated regional program – and other interventions towards rice self-sufficiency.
The findings of the World Bank study were complemented by presentations on their respective national rice sector from representatives of the three Asian countries. In addition, presentations on the role of rice value chains in national rice development strategies were made by focal points of five West African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal).
As part of the ‘Continental Investment Plan for accelerating Rice Self-Sufficiency in Africa (CIPRiSSA)’ initiative led by AfricaRice, evidence-based approaches to accelerating rice self-sufficiency, with focus on projections of additional investments to be made in priority segments of the rice value chain and timelines for reaching self-sufficiency, were also presented.
About 55 participants from Africa and Asia, including representatives from governments, regional and sub-regional organizations (CORAF/WECARD), agriculture-related initiatives [Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) and Grow Africa], research institutes, donor community, non-governmental organizations, development banks, farmers’ cooperatives, millers and agri-business sector, took part in the consultation workshop.
Major development partners, notably the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the World Bank, also participated actively.
Participants expressed their satisfaction with the opportunity to exchange information and experience between the more established value chain players from Asia as well as the emerging players from Africa. They discussed the possibility of having more of such exchanges by establishing a South-South cooperative platform in this domain. The development partners unanimously conveyed their support to the African countries in driving their own agendas for developing efficient rice value chains.
They also endorsed the CIPRiSSA initiative, which is a powerful tool developed by AfricaRice to be used by African countries to aid investment decision-making to speed up rice self-sufficiency. They, however, concluded that CIPRiSSA could be more efficient if it proposes more than one scenario in its projections for attaining rice self-sufficiency.
Preliminary recommendations that emerged from the workshop to upgrade West Africa’s rice value chains include the following:
Policy: Governments in West Africa should pursue their support to the continued development of the rice value chain with focus on the establishment and implementation of adequate public policies and improved basic infrastructure, such as irrigation and storage facilities, access roads and power supply.
Production: The establishment of farming groups in various agro-ecological zones that would grow fewer (maximum of two to five) market-preferred rice varieties as opposed to the traditional practice of growing several varieties. This will reduce grain mixtures and would be an incentive for capturing the lucrative urban, regional and international rice markets in Africa.
Marketing strategy: The classification of quality milled rice in West Africa, aimed at targeting different markets with different pricing, should be encouraged. Cross-border paddy trade that enables other countries to process rice and add value for their markets should be investigated.
Data: The on-going work on CIPRiSSA, involving the collection and analyses of credible data to guide investments in the rice value chain in West Africa, should be sustained.
Creating synergy among various rice value chain initiatives: Various initiatives on improving rice value chain that exist in each country should align themselves to the national rice development strategy. This could be facilitated through the establishment of the Support System for Accelerating Rice Self-Sufficiency in Africa (SSARSSA) proposed by AfricaRice. SSARSSA will help expand the CIPRiSSA studies to other countries and sustain rice self-sufficiency in Africa.
Participants formed into working groups to distil lessons on rice productivity, production, trade, quality issues, processing, aggregation, regional synergies, design of supply chain, policy tools, public investments, risk mitigation, and job creation. These will be delineated in a policy brief.
Expressing his gratitude on behalf of the West African countries participating in the workshop, Mr Moustapha Sissoko, CIPRiSSA focal point, Government of Mali, stated, “We will submit to our government authorities the comprehensive report of this important workshop and draw the attention of our policy-makers to its full recommendations.”
During the concluding session, Dr Touré said that the World Bank study on ‘Rice Value Chain development: Guiding principles from Asia,’ will also be shared with policy-makers and other stakeholders, once it is finalized. “Stakeholders have a lot of expectations from Africa as far as the rice sector is concerned and they strongly believe that Africa can play a big role in feeding not only itself, but also the world.”
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