The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says its rice offensive programme would make self-sufficiency in rice a reality in the sub-region by 2025.
Mr Ernest Aubee, Principal Programme Officer and ECOWAS Head of Agriculture Division, made the disclosure in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday.
Aubee said that the programme had been designed to enhance rice production in all member states.‘‘The programme will basically look at how the region can increase its production so as to meet consumption needs and reduce import.
‘It will also create job opportunities for our own farmers especially youths and women.
‘‘It will also improve the value chain so that it could be of high quality and nutritionally suitable for us as ECOWAS citizens to consume.’’
He said that rice has become a highly strategic commodity in West Africa and is the largest source of food calories on the African continent.
‘‘ECOWAS countries imported around nine million tonnes of milled rice in 2014, representing a cost of 4 billion Euros.
‘‘To avoid risks of civil unrest and the scenarios of increased global food prices, there is an urgent need to increase rice production, processing, value-addition, and marketing in West Africa to achieve self-sufficiency.
‘‘Currently, the region depends on imports from Asia to fulfil about half of its consumption needs.
“ECOWAS has initiated a regional offensive to reach rice self-sufficiency by 2025.’’
NAN reports that the regional offensive for sustained recovery of rice production in West Africa Programme was approved by the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in June 2014.
Aubee said that this offensive was aimed at reducing imports to zero level by 2025.
He said the joint collaborative spirit aimed at supporting the rice offensive would energise rice production in the sub-region.
‘‘It will also bolster a regional public-private partnership which makes self-sufficiency in rice and economic prosperity a reality in West Africa.
‘‘The fact book is a briefing document on key rice parameters in the ECOWAS region, opportunities and business cases aimed at attracting anchor investors.’’
He added that the commission has been in partnership with CARI in four countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Tanzania to promote rice production in Africa.
‘‘We are member of steering committee for CARI for the whole of Africa and also a very active member in Nigeria Rice Advocacy Platform, helping to support rice cultivation in all rice production states.’’He said CARI Phase I has been successful in the four countries in the efforts to make Africa self-sufficient in rice.