Locally bred indigenous rice varieties are set to be available in the sub-Saharan Africa market next year, an expert said on Friday.
Kayode Sanni, Project Manager for Rice with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), an agricultural think tank promoting use of agricultural technologies in Africa, said that 30 varieties will be unveiled in Kenya and Tanzania respectively by early 2017.
“The varieties have been submitted to national regulation authorities and are currently undergoing National Performance Trial (NPT) that is expected to approve the varieties before end of this year,” Sanni said in Nairobi at a meeting.
He noted that the new varieties, which have been developed using a two-line rice hybrid technology, have the potential to produce seven to 10 tons per hectare, up from 2.3 tons per hectares.
“The new hybrid varieties are expected to produce grain quality that are resistant to diseases and also be of high yielding quality,” he added.
With this breakthrough, Africa will realize its own high yielding hybrid seeds, consequently boosting production and moving closer to self-sufficiency in rice production.
Sanni revealed that once the varieties are unveiled in Kenya and Tanzania, the high yielding hybrid seeds be rolled out to other East, Central and Southern African countries to help boost production and self-sufficiency in rice production.
“Kenya alone imported rice valued at 15 million U.S. dollars in 2014 while Africa imported 13 million tons of rice amounting to 5 billion dollars,” he revealed.
Kenya relies on rice imports since its annual demand of milled rice is 550,000 tons. The country last year imported 420,000 tons that was not enough to cater for demand, leaving the country with a deficit of 15,000 tons.
While global production of rice has risen steadily from 132 million tons in 1960 to 491.5 million tons in 2015, Africa has not contributed much to the increase, producing only three percent, with Asia accounting for 90 percent of the global production.
Rice demand on the continent exceeds production and Africa has been forced to rely heavily on importing large quantities of rice to meet demand at a very huge cost.
So far, Egypt is the only country that has developed its own rice hybrids.