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With memories of the devastating global rice price crisis fresh in their minds, experts from Africa and beyond, meeting in Mali from 22-26 March, call for long-term commitment to scientific innovations and partnerships that are critical for enabling the continent to fulfill its huge potential as a rice producer and to sharply curtail its perilous dependence on rice imports.

The Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), which is organizing the Africa Rice Congress 2010 in collaboration with the government of Mali, had been predicting the crisis for at least 2 years before it struck. The crisis created enormous hardship for poor consumers around the world and prompted riots in major African capitals.

In meetings with government ministers before and since then, Dr. Papa A. Seck, director general of AfricaRice, which is supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), has repeatedly underlined the dangers implicit in the region’s rapidly increasing rice consumption and lagging production.

In West Africa, for example, consumption rose by 4.5% yearly during 1961-2006, while production expanded at 3.2%. In Mozambique, the contrast has been even more marked, with consumption jumping by 15% yearly during 1990-2005 and production remaining stagnant. The resulting gap between Africa’s rice supply and demand has saddled governments with huge import bills, ranging from US$4 to US$5 billion in 2008.

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Courtesy: Seed Quest

Date: 22nd March 2010