“African farmers and agribusiness investors stand to make an estimated 100-125 million US Dollars in the early uptake and adoption of improved rice varieties,” Dr. Sanni Kayode has said.
“Early adopters of the improved rice varieties are projected to make an estimated 100-150m USD.
It is a good business opportunity for farmers and other early adopters of biotechnology marketers,” said Dr. Kayode on May 26, 2022.
He was addressing participants at the 5th Media for Environment Science Health and Agriculture (MESHA) Science Congress.
Dr. Kayode, who is the Rice Project Manager and Director of the Alliance for Hybrid Rice in Africa (AHyRA), said biotechnological advances had seen the development of improved varieties that can boost the yield by more than 2 tons per hectare.
“Hybrid varieties give 2-3 extra tons per hectare.
Some can even get between 5-7 tons per hectare when there is good rainfall. With the cost of seed being constant, the improved yield brings in better returns for farmers,” he explained.
According to www.statista.com, Africa produced around 24 million metric tons of rice in 2021.
“The production might slightly decrease to some 23 million metric tons in 2021/2022, according to the source’s forecasts,” wrote Julia Faria on the organization’s website.
In the same year, the continent also imported 17,545 million metric tons of rice, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 16,460 metric tons as the North Africa region bought 1,085 million metric tons. This was an increase of 931 metric tons from the 2020 total of 16,614 million metric tons.
Dr. Kayode said the rice project was one of the ways for Africa to step up and ensure the availability of enough food for all.
“We should take up hybrid rice as one of the options to achieve food security and secure production sovereignty,” he urged.
The scientist asked governments, through seed authorities, to supply the farmers with good quality seeds sufficiently.
“Seed authorities need to have good quality grain that farmers can access,” said Dr. Kayodde.
Dr. Kayode said regulatory bodies in African nations had recognized the game-changing potential of hybrid rice and had set up mechanisms to ensure it was adopted and fully commercialized.
Among the organizations spearheading hybrid rice production in the region are the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF/HEAL) Africatec and Bayer in East Africa, Advanta Seeds, which operates in both East and West Africa, a series of Chinese firms in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Other AHyRA partners include the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Africa Rice and the Kenya Seed Company.
He identified a slow regulatory pace and lack of awareness among farmers as some of the challenges to the rapid uptake of improved rice varieties.
“There is low awareness of the improved varieties among rice farmers and a slow pace of the release process in some countries. We need to educate the farmers and society on their benefits, even as we seek and wait for approval,” Dr. Kayode observed.
The expert also identified the high cost of developing new varieties as a barrier to the fast and cheap rollout of the rice that is purposed for larger yields.
“Another challenge that we are yet to meet on the continent adequately is the high cost of hybrid seed production. As a result, our production capacity on hybrid rice is still low,” Dr. Kayode told the participants.
He bemoaned African investors’ lack of interest in the sector, saying it had resulted in a low capital base for the sub-sector.
“There is insufficient private sector involvement in the marketing and adoption of improved rice varieties. We need to replicate what the rice industry in the West is doing, through greater involvement by the private sector.The private sector is involved in funding rice production and marketing in Western economies,” said Dr. Kayode.
“Private investors,” Dr. Kayode said, “had also shied away from the production of improved and high-performance varieties designed to significantly boost yields of one of Africa’s staple food crops.
“There is a low level of private sector’s investment in rice seed production,” he said.
On his part, Dr. Maxwell Asante, a senior scientist at the Crops Research Institute (CSIR) in Kumasi, Ghana, said his organization has developed and rolled out two new rice varieties dubbed NUE and NEWEST in order to boost the country’s rice production efforts.
“The NUE variety, for instance, can save farmers up to 250 USD per hectare by improving the average yield by between 10 and 15 percent while increasing the yield by 700 USD annually,” said Dr Asante.
Apart from reducing the use of inputs by 30 percent and the overall production cost, Dr. Asante disclosed that its cultivation also results in carbon trade savings of 53 USD per hectare in a year.
“One of the benefits of the NEWEST line is that resource poor farmers who cannot afford the recommended levels of fertilizer can still have good yields. This will improve livelihoods,” said the scientist and rice breeder, who has been involved in releasing over a dozen rice varieties in Ghana.
He said the new variety was climate-tolerant and would help farmers realize good yields in the current changed climatic conditions.
“The effects of climate change would be mitigated by using the NEWEST lines. Using the variety, marginal areas which cannot support rice can be cultivated,” Dr. Asante said.
The scientist said the varieties were subjected to the stringent global and national government tests and standards before being released for public use.
“We ensure we meet all the health and safety requirements before releasing varieties for general use. They are completely safe and ready for use,” said Dr. Asante.
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