West African nation Nigeria has overtaken North African counterpart Egypt as Africa's largest producer of rice.
During an interview by The Nation (Nigeria), the Director-General of the Africa Rice Center, Benin Republic, Dr Harold Roy-Macauley revealed Nigeria - Africa's fastest growing economy 2019 - produces 4 million tonnes annually.
Egypt's rice production stood at 4.3 million tonnes yearly but is forecast to decline by 40 per cent reduction after the Egyptian government decided to limit cultivation to preserve water resources.
Cited by The Arab Weekly, Egypt's rice cultivation required about 1.8 billion metres of water in evaporation, transpiration and irrigation every year.
Rice is an important field crop in Egypt, serving as a staple food for more than 50 per cent of Egyptians and an export commodity for the government.
Between 2015 and 2016, Egypt exported rice with a revenue of $58 million.
However, last year, the government banned rice exportation and moved to the importing of milled and paddy rice to increase the supply of the commodity.
Local production of rice in Nigeria saved the federal government $800 million in 2018, disclosed Bank of Agriculture (BoA). President Muhammadu Buhari revealed earlier this year Nigeria does not import rice.
Actually, the country is even exporting grains. The stats offer a sigh of relief to the country's agriculture sector and eases tension on food security.
However, Nigeria's population stands at 190 million, arguably Africa's largest, with a forecast 2.90 growth rate in 2019.
Africa produces an average of 14.6 million tonnes of rough rice annually.
Roy-Macauley said with the increasing population on the continent, revived efforts need to be put to ensure food security.
Hunger won't keep Oserian children out of school - The Exchange
Also, according to him, the African rice value chain needs to be better integrated and be capable of competing with imported rice in terms of quality.
Other top rice producers in Africa include Madagascar whose estimated production level in 2017 was about 3.5 million metric tons and Tanzania whose agriculture sector employs more than 75 per cent of the local population.
Most African countries depend on agriculture to boost their economy.
In the period 2017/2018 season, the world's top five rice producers were China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam respectively.