THE amount of rice produced in Kilombero and Rufiji valleys is expected to triple from the current 500,000 tonnes to 1.5 million tonnes by 2015.
Records show that the demand of the rice in the country is much higher than the supply as evidenced by the current prices in most local markets.This indicates that a kilo of rice is sold at between 1,800/- and 2,200/-.
Speaking during a two-day rice stakeholders' workshop in Dar es Salaam, the coordinator for the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), Dr Mary Shetto, said that Tanzania had every required factor including favourable environment to lead in rice production in Eastern and Central Africa.
"We want to see farmers producing rice in amounts that would surpass local consumption needs enabling Tanzania to be a notable exporter of the globally popular cereal," Dr Shetto said.
She added that the country was determined to ensure that it becomes one of the largest rice producers in Africa through improved and modern farming techniques.
"Tanzania has high chances of leading in rice production in the Eastern Africa and Central Africa. Rice consumption has tremendously increased in recent years. We thus want to ensure that we produce in abundance while also concentrating on improving local rice processing plants," she explained.
The Assistant Director for Crop Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Dr Hussein Mansoor, who spoke about the challenges that frustrate rice production in the country, said that dependence on rainfall and poor farming techniques were an impediment to large-scale production.
He thus said that new rice growing initiatives would put a lot of focus on irrigation and would use rice species that do not require much water. Dr Mansoor said that the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives is keen on eliminating the challenges that hamper large-scale rice production.
The initial move will involve improving seed quality, enriching soil fertility and controlling fertilizer distribution. The Assistant Director of the Crop Promotion Section in the Ministry, Mr Beatus Malema, said that determination to ensure increase of rice production would be attained through various government projects and development partners' projects.
Government projects that are to be put in place in the quest for success include the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (ASDS), District Agriculture Development Plans (DADPS), Irrigation Development, SAGCOT and Tanzania Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plan (TAFSIP).
He said that production of rice in the country has increased from 712.6 tonnes in 2002/2013 to 1.12 milion tonnes in 2011/2012. Mr Malema said that rice was the second food crop that is widely produced in the world after maize with its popularity gaining momentum in Tanzania.
"Tanzania is among the 25 countries that produce rice in Africa. The country targets to boost production from the 875,120 tonnes recorded in 2007/2008 to 1,750,240 tonnes in 2017/2018," Mr Malema explained in his presentation.