Tanzania and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Monday launched a partnership deal aimed at enabling the East African nation to double rice production by 2018.
The new deal named the Partnership for Sustainable Rice Systems Development in Africa project was launched in Morogoro region, about 200 kilometers west of the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
Fred Kafeero, FAO Representative in Tanzania, said the new project was aimed at supporting Tanzania’s efforts to double rice production by 2018 through boosting productivity in farming among small-holder farmers.
The 5-million-US-dollar project is being implemented in ten African countries, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Guinea, Mali, Benin, Cameroon and Senegal.
“The project is going to support efforts to improve domestic rice supply and strengthen the rice market in the country,” said Kafeero.
He said rice production is increasingly a major source of food, employment and income for many farming households in Tanzania.
However, Kafeero said although significant progress has been made, the country continued to rely heavily on rice imports to meet the increasing consumption, which raises a serious food security concern.
“It is good to see that of late Tanzania has made major strides in rice farming whereby measures taken by the government have enabled the country to increase its production to the extent of meeting the local demand for the product,” he said.
According to him, planned activities will include promotion of improved rice seed systems, tailored capacity building of rice value chain actors, post-harvest loss reduction, supporting rice value addition and development of irrigated rice production systems.
Florens Turuka, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, said rice was the second important grain in the country after maize.
“This project is so timely. It has come at a time when we’re determined to boost rice production. Rice productivity in Tanzania is lower than in most neighboring countries and is one of the lowest in the world,” he said.
Available statistics indicate that rice production in Tanzania increased from about 0.62 million tonnes in 1995 to about 1.33 million tonnes in 2009 but dropped to 1.10 million tonnes in 2010.