The evaluation visit of potential rice production zones in the Far North Region by the Minister Delegate to the Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development has again rekindled hopes not only for inhabitants of the Far North but for all Cameroonians.
Accompanied by several operators in the rice production sector, the government official made it known that government was about hatching another programme to step up production within the framework of an enlarged agric programme earmarked for the area.
This is not the first time government is initiating a project aimed at boosting rice production. Some years back government announced plans to begin the cultivation of paddy rice on a 14,000 hectares of land.
The plan earmarked two important rice production zones: SEMRY and UNVDA where it was hoped production will hit 60,000 tons. It was one of the major action plans of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The results remain highly mitigated.
In effect, time has not been able to solve the problem of rice production in Cameroon. For several decades now, the demand for the food crop 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 considerable reduce 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.
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. What then is the problem? This is the big question on many minds.
While accepting that Cameroon has a lot of potentials, a thing Cameroonians like to boast of, forgetting that potentials do not develop a country unless they have been explored and developed, it is important to point out the hurdles that are blamed for holding back rice production in the country.
Minister Yaouba Abdoulaye tells CT the problems have to do with difficulties of acquiring land, limited water supply, poor land development, lack of inputs and seedlings and above all limited means of financing.
With a staggering production of about 100,000 metric tons annually compared to an estimated demand of 300,000 metric tons, the announced programme with its ambition of producing 1.2 million metric tons of white rice God alone knows when, it is however necessary to hail the initiative.
But it is equally important to acknowledge the fact that Cameroon is late and any programme or project geared at increasing production must be made an emergency if it must succeed.