BETTER SEEDS CAN HELP BENIN BECOME SELF-SUFFICIENT IN RICE (UNNews)

UN EXPERTS PREDICT BETTER SEEDS CAN HELP BENIN BECOME SELF-SUFFICIENT IN RICE

New York, Jul 15 2009  2:00PM

Experts from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (<“http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/28612/icode/”>FAO) are predicting that Benin could one day become self-sufficient in rice and even export its surplus output through the intensified production and marketing of high quality seeds.

A $500,000 FAO project, due to begin in September 2009, seeks to help the small West African nation achieve the goal of producing 300,000 tonnes of rice – more than double the current output – by 2011.

To do that, Benin will have to produce more than 2,200 tonnes of high quality rice seeds each year, the agency said in a news release.

The project encourages the production of high quality seeds while facilitating access to them by farmers. FAO says an increase in production of high quality rice seeds should result in enough output to cover 70 per cent of domestic demand.

Currently, domestic rice output is “far from able to satisfy the ever-growing demand” not only in Benin but also in other parts of West Africa. FAO figures show that West African rice imports reached 6 million tonnes in 2001 and this is likely to rise to 11 million tonnes by 2010.

Exploiting Benin’s rice production potential, say the experts, will not only enable the country to satisfy local demand but will also enable it to export surplus output to sub-regional and regional markets.

“If Benin exploited its full rice production potential, the net gain would be more than $55 million,” according to the news release. Increased revenues would also lead to better livelihoods for farmers and would make local rice cultivation production more competitive.
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Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.