Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

22 November 2012

Cameroon: Rice Importation - Increasing Trends Can Stop

Time has not been able to solve the problem of rice production in Cameroon. Since 2004, that is eight years, the demand for rice has not stopped rising and supply of locally produced rice dwindling. Curiously, during the same period stakeholders have not stopped drawing up plans to step up production and reduce rather considerable importation. Even though it is often said that failing to plan is planning to fail, the case in Cameroon seems to be different; the more plans to produce more rice are hatched, the more importation of foreign rice heightens.

And so, in our local markets instead of finding Ndop rice, SEMRY rice or rice from Santchou on the stands, one's eye are quickly entertained by Pakistani rice, Thailand rice or better still rice from Vietnam. Whereas the initiation of projects to boost production, some of them coming from experienced nations such as Japan, South Korea and China keeps increasing and researchers keep working to introduce high yielding species into our farms, the results remains discouraging on the field. The laying of the foundation stone at the little locality of Avangane for a pilot irrigated rice farm supported by the Koreans and the holding of the 7th Coalition Committee for the development of rice in Africa are just some of the latest moves to address the problem.

But as this is happening, demand continues to skyrocket leading the authorities that be to continue to accept more foreign rice into the country. Statistics indicate that Cameroon shipped in 545,000 metric tonnes of rice in 2011 at an amount estimated at FCFA 145 billion up from 350,000 metric tonnes bought a year earlier. What is more disturbing is the fact the country has enormous arable land fertile enough to accommodate rice cultivation. The country, it is said possesses 240,000 hectares of cultivable land. Unfortunately barely 25,000 hectares have been developed, 13,000 of which are for the Yagoua Rice Production agro industry (SEMRY), 3,000 for the Upper Noun Valley Development Authority (UNVDA) Ndop and the rest shared between Santchou, Nanga Eboko, and Kousserie among others. In fact, if just 50 per cent of the available rice land were put to use depending on the quality of production, the country will feed the rest of the countries in the Central African sub region.

The situation at hand calls for real action that goes beyond rhetoric. Rice in effect has become a staple food for most Cameroonian with annual demand estimated at between 600,000 and 650,000 metric tonnes. But local production remains staggering at only 40 per cent of this amount. The future seems not to be very bright if strategies are not improved upon and quickly implemented as domestic production remains unable to keep pace with rising demand which to say the least is triggered by population growth and rapid urbanisation.

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