Maputo — The Mozambican government hopes that by 2020 the country will produce 80 per cent of the rice it consumes and import only 20 per cent
Currently Mozambique is importing about 350,000 tonnes of rice a yea, at a cost of 140 million US dollars.
Mahomed Vala, the national director of agricultural services, on Friday expressed the determination to cut this figure dramatically.
He was speaking to reporters during a one day meeting of the Coordination Committee of the Projects to Improve Rice Productivity. This committee covers the Chokwe irrigation system in the southern province of Gaza (the largest irrigation system in the country), and the Maganja da Costa irrigation system in the central province of Zambezia.
The projects in these two irrigation schemes, now in their final phase, are being financed by Japan and Vietnam, The meeting is discussing the achievements, impact and sustainability of the projects since implementation began in 2011.
Vala admitted that rice production remains largely at household subsistence level. Low productivity was due to such factors as poor access to modern agricultural inputs, rudimentary techniques, inefficient water management, and obsolescent irrigation infrastructures.
Vala said that Mozambique has 900,000 hectares of land appropriate for rice cultivation, but currently only 230,000 are being exploited.
He was convinced that productivity can be improved by the use of appropriate technology, including improved seeds and other inputs, and by improving harvest and post-harvest operations.
He said that such improvements have allowed some small Mozambican producers to increase their yields fourfold or more - from 800 to 1,000 kilos per hectare too four tonnes per hectare. This, Vala added, was the result of the Intensive Technology Transfer Programme.
He was also optimistic about an increase in the capacity of the country's rice processing industry. “Within the next two years, the country will be processing 180,000 to 200,000 tonnes of rice a year, just in Chokwe and in the Lower Limpopo irrigation scheme in Gaza”, he predicted
These and other improvements would make it possible to cut back rice imports by 80 per cent.
In Chokwe, gains are expected from the use of a newly designed manual rice seeder to plant the crop. The seeder has been developed under the bilateral cooperation with Japan.
In Maganja da Costa, under trilateral cooperation between Mozambique, Japan and Vietnam, a package of improved rice cultivation techniques has been disseminated among farmers, and a local association of irrigators has been trained to operate and maintain the irrigation installations.