TANZANIA – The government of Tanzania in partnership with the World Bank, Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) and the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) has launched a 12-year plan that seeks to boost rice production.

Dubbed as ‘The National Rice Development Strategy Programme’ the initiative is part of the Coalition for African Rice Development aimed at feeding East Africa and forestall a food crisis in the region.

Mathew Mtingumwe, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture said the programme is aimed at raising annual rice production from 2.2 million tonnes to 4.5 million tonnes to meet local demand and export to neighbouring countries.

“We will benefit by getting funds from World Bank (WB), African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to support agriculture development including rice production,” he noted.

JICA representative, Fumihiko Suzuki said the agency has for years been promoting irrigation development, irrigation human resource development as well as dissemination of paddy and upland rice cultivation technology in the country.

He assured that JICA was well organised in various agricultural aspects, adding that within the agency there were a good number of agricultural experts to help Tanzania attain its goal.

Tanzania’s main food crops include maize, rice, sorghum, millet, legumes, roots and tubers, horticultural crops and coconut – largely produced by smallholder farmers with maize and rice being the important staple food crops in the country’s food basket.

Grown by about 2 million farmers in Tanzania, the country’s rice demand reached 2.05 million tonnes in 2018 and it is projected to increase by 2.9 per cent during the next five years to 2.27 million tonnes.

According to an East African report, crop production in Tanzania has been gradually dropping partly due to low or non-adoption of recommended agricultural production practices and lack of fertilisers.

The Ministry of Agriculture is now wooing new rice growers through technical and training support from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Counting below average rains and drought, Tanzania stands among African countries south of the Sahara facing a food crisis with a sharp rise in prices for cereals mostly in its northern, western and southern agricultural regions.

Looking to develop and boost agricultural production, Tanzania has sought Israel’s support in training in modern farming technology and agribusiness investments.