Category Archives: Africa

Flour Millers Gather In Ethiopia

For the first time, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Africa’s unofficial capital, hosted the International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) Mideast and Africa (MEA) Conference and Expo, Oct. 24-27, at the Millennium Hall. The 27th rendition of the event, perhaps the weightiest gathering of the global wheat and milling industry annually, drew more than 500 participants from 46 countries for exchanges of market and technical information both in educational forums and on the trade show floor, which featured 92 exhibitors from 22 countries.

Representatives of many of the Ethiopian Millers Association’s 350 member companies were able to enjoy unprecedented contacts with leading global technical experts, traders and equipment suppliers. The country’s milling sector has been steadily industrializing to cope with 20 million tonnes of annual cereals production. A record 2 million tonnes of wheat imports came into the country in 2016 to compensate for the drop in domestic cereals production due to the worst drought in decades.

Africa Panel

The milling industry’s challenge of feeding economically growing African countries was the theme of the opening panel discussion.

“Africa is number two in the rate of wheat consumption growth after Southeast Asia,” said Dan Basse of AgResource Company. “Sub-Saharan African demand is increasing the most. Average caloric intake of rest of the world is leveling off, but Africa is still increasing.”

He added, “The world on average needs 1.8% more food per year but is producing 2.8% more.”

Panel moderator Martin Schlauri, managing director of Bühler’s African Milling School in Nairobi, pointed out that 70% of the grain used by East Africa’s industrial millers is imported, and milling to feed the region’s 330 million people accounts for nearly one-third of electricity consumption.

Brad Allen of Ardent Mills speaks at the IAOM MEA Conference.

Abubakar Bakhresa, executive director of Said Salim Bakhresa & Co. Ltd., the region’s dominant milling group, commented on the need to upgrade skills. “We used to send millers to Mysore, India or Europe for training but now can we send them to Nairobi,” Bakhresa said. “We are sending millers from all our mills.”

The key to efficiency is standardization of operations, observed Nick Hutchinson, group managing director of Unga Holding.

“We must introduce ways to measure efficiency,” he said. “Another challenge is maintenance. We need competent people.”

Local grain supply also was discussed. Esubalew Kefale of Ethiopian biscuit producer Ahadukes Food Products observed that in Ethiopia wheat is not segregated well in the marketplace.

“It is difficult to maintain quality standards,” Kefale said. “Biscuits need two types of grain quality. The flour millers’ association is providing training but the problem is raw material.”

Government Intervention

For the first time IAOM MEA directly addressed the politically sensitive and complex topic of government intervention in grain markets in the Middle East and North Africa. The panel included industry leaders from four countries.

Mohamed Reza Mortazavi, director of the Iranian Federation of Food Industries, said that in 2012 there was a brief period of market liberalization allowing millers to buy 80% of the wheat crop, but that since 2013, an election year, Iran’s government has been buying 85% of the wheat crop at above market prices, including 11.5 million tonnes of wheat from this year’s bumper crop. Farmers received $375 per tonne while government allocates the wheat at just over half that price to millers in order to keep bread and pasta prices low. Including 5 million tonnes of carryover, government stocks are at 16.5 million tonnes. But the country only needs 8 million tonnes for subsidized bread and 2 million tonnes for pasta.

From left, Merzad Jamshidi, KFF Mills; Essa Al Ghurair, Al Ghurair Foods; and Dr. Mebrahtu Meles, Ethiopia’s state minister for industry.

Essa Al Ghurair, chairman of Al Ghurair Resources, cited Egypt’s introduction of debit cards for social welfare recipients to replace heavily subsidized bread. Beneficiaries are happy to be able to buy higher quality baked goods or cooking oil. The innovation may reduce wheat consumption and wastage in the wheat import-dependent country.

Gunhan Ulusoy, chairman of the Turkish Federation of Flour Industrialists, remarked that cereals purchases and sales by the Turkish Grain Board vary according to crops and markets but are limited in most years to 2 million to 3 million tonnes, depending on the need to support farmgate prices. Turkey’s position as the world’s number one wheat flour exporter has mostly to do with logistical convenience of importing low-cost Russian wheat and a highly-efficient milling sector. Half of Turkey’s 3 million tonnes of flour exports are going to strife-torn Iraq and Syria, he said.

In Lebanon, wheat imports and wheat flour sales are mostly on a free market basis, said Patricia Bakalian, CEO of Bakalian Flour Mills. However, the government has intervened in the past to subsidize flour prices when world wheat prices have spiked.

Overabundance Of Wheat

“The world is awash in wheat,” said Basse, who moderated the market outlook sessions. “Prices are at a 10-year low. The Black Sea continues dramatic rises in production.”

Dan Basse of AgResource Company speaks during a panel discussion at the IAOM MEA Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of IAOM MEA.

Russia, with a 70-millon-tonne wheat crop, has displaced Canada and the U.S. as the top wheat supplier to the world. Global wheat prices are now set in the Black Sea, not the U.S. Gulf.

The U.S. had “practically perfect planting and harvesting conditions” said Ian Flag, regional director of U.S. Wheat Associates. “U.S. supply is 17% above the 10-year average.” HRW carryover stocks of 29.5 million tonnes are nearly a record.

Low world prices mean that Australian wheat growers will store their crop longer than usual, commented Nick Poutney, regional manager for GrainCorp.

“They will not plant as much next season,” he said. “There is a large increase in take-out of pulses in rotation. Crop size is getting large enough so bulk vessels shipments instead of container loads will become feasible.”

In contrast to other leading export origins, both France and the Baltic region saw smaller crops.

“There is a big lack of wheat in France,” Jean-Pierre Langlois-Berthelot of France Export Cereales informed the gathering. “Production of 28.2 million tonnes of milling wheat is 24% below the average. Usually the country exports more than 50% of its crop. There is a lot less wheat to export this year than in other countries.

“In France, everything went wrong in May. The cycle of vegetation of wheat was totally disrupted by rain. Average yield was 7.5 tonnes. Low radiation meant unusually low test weights. The average is 45 grams per 1,000 kernels but this year’s crop is only 37 grams. High ash content is unusual as well.”

Langlois-Berthelot also predicted that due to the low French yields combined with depressed prices from the global glut, half of French wheat growers could go bankrupt without a French government or E.U. rescue.

Indrek Aigro of Copenhagen Merchants, Denmark, noted that a cold February resulted in winter kill in Baltics. “There is 5 million tonnes smaller production so we will have 5 million fewer tonnes of exports,” he said. “There is a loss of 7 million tonnes of quality milling wheat. There is only 9 million tonnes of milling quality wheat compared to 14.5 million tonnes last year, so 5.5 million tonnes less.”

Next Year’s Event In Dubai

In his welcome speech, IAOM regional director Ali Habaj explained a revamping of the IAOM MEA website to provide a platform for new and used machinery and employment opportunities in the sector. The postings will be in English, Arabic and Persian.

Closing the conference, Habaj announced a return to Dubai, United Arab Emirates as the site of the 28th IAOM MEA Conference and Expo in in the fall of 2017.

The Glencore booth was busy with visitors during the trade show.

Merzad Jamshidi, KFF Mills, asks a question as David McKee, grain industry consultant, looks on.

Danilo Carloni, OMAS, gives a presentation on the Leonardo Rollermill.

Dr. Lutz Popper, Mühlenchemie GmbH & Co. KG, gives a talk on Nutritional and Technical Improvement of Flour for Bread and Pasta.

David Balaguer, Fundiciones Balaguer, gives a presentation on the company’s new Optical Fluting Test.

From left: Martin Schlauri, African Milling School, xxxxx, Ethiopian Millers Association; Ali Habaj, Atyab Investments & Oman Flour Mills Co.; Dr. Mebrahtu Meles, Ethiopia’s state minister of industry; Andreas Flueckiger, Bühler AG; Essa Al Ghurair, Essa Al Ghurair Investment LLC; Anas Shaar, National Flour Mills; and Adama Ekberg, Nations Unies.

Ethiopia’s Italian connection

Italy’s close past and current economic ties with Ethiopia, particularly in the agricultural and food sector, were highlighted at “Wheat, Flour, And…”, a high profile sideline event held concurrently with the IAOM MEA Conference in Addis Ababa and at Ocrim’s world headquarters in Cremona, Italy.

Ocrim SpA, the Italian embassy, and Ethiopian Millers Association co-sponsored a gathering that drew more than 120 participants and included a live video conference with a panel of Italian food entrepreneurs in Cremona. Matteo Antolini, Ocrim vice-president, noted that his company has been in Ethiopia for 35 years, having supplied many of the first industrial wheat mills in the country.

Ocrim CEO Alberto Antolini addresses attendees at the Cremona, Italy portion of Ocrim’s “Wheat, Flour and...” video conference event.

Given the presence of 12 Italian equipment companies exhibiting at the IAOM, the transfer of milling and pasta production technology was one of the main themes.

Ocrim Vice-President Sergio Antolini speaks to attendees at the Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia portion. Photos courtesy of Ocrim.

Pasta has been popular among Ethiopia’s urban consumers since its introduction after the first contacts with Italy 120 years ago. In the last decade an increasing number of food enterprises, particularly milling companies, have installed new pasta production lines, but wheat quality and availability is a constraint.

In the past, semolina millers and pasta producers could import their own durum in containers, but foreign exchange controls and the government monopoly on commercial wheat imports prevent this option now.

Tiberio Chiaria of the Italian Agency for International Cooperation (AICS) observed, “Ethiopia is importing 40,000 tonnes of pasta per year, so there is a demand for quality.”

Ethiopia is now growing an additional 50,000 tonnes of durum wheat per year, thanks in part to support from AICS, which imported 40 tonnes of improved durum seed from Italy selected for planting in Ethiopia’s Bale region. It has dry growing conditions similar to Italy, Europe’s leading durum producer with a forecast of nearly 5 million tonnes forecast in 2016-17.

Ethiopia’s state minister for industry, Mebrathu Meles, outlined Ethiopia’s ambitious goal to attract foreign direct investment and become “the leading country for light manufacturing in Africa.”

He noted that Ethiopia offers a wide range of agro-ecological zones where almost anything can be grown, and so is seeking to attract agro-processing investment. Noting that Italy is a successful model of development of light industry and high value agricultural products, he asserted, “We have a long-term relationship with Italy. We should maximize it.”

AICS general manager Ginevra Letizia said Italy has committed to invest $180 million over five years in agro-industrial support, particularly the building of infrastructure.

Meles elaborated on the government’s own support for infrastructure, outlining plans to build four major agro-industrial parks around the country to house food processing companies. The first such park is under construction.

AICS senior economist in Ethiopia, Andrea Ghione, validated the concept.

“Industrial parks are clusters for processors and a pull for producers,” Ghione said. “They can provide a steady demand for certain products with certain quality. There are opportunities for agro-processors.”

Ghione further observed that the agro-industrial parks will provide some economies of scale in warehousing and require aggregators to deliver standardized quality raw materials like grains in 16.5-tonne trucks as the minimum marketing unit.

Ocrim presented Captain of the Year awards to food manufacturers Bira Food Complex and K.O.J.J. Manufacturing, as well as the Oromia Agricultural Research Institute for their contributions to development of the cereals value chain in Ethiopia.

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Rice Is King In West and Central Africa

Outside of Asia, rice is as big a part of diets in west and central Africa as in any region of the world. Though cultivated for over 2,000 years in the Niger River floodplains, local rice production decades ago ceased to keep pace with the rapidly increasing consumption of burgeoning urban populations. Consequently, the 20 or so mostly coastal countries extending from arid and sparsely populated Mauritania to lushly forested Congo and anchored by regional giant Nigeria now account for more than a quarter of global rice trade.

Roughly 12 million tonnes gets imported, complementing local output approaching the same amount.

Collectively, and in most cases individually, the countries of the vast region have sufficient arable land and water resources to be self-sufficient and even generate large surpluses for export. Consequently, the majority of governments have adopted policies to speed the transition from subsistence rice farming to commercial production. However creation of a value chain that can competitively supply domestic rice to city dwellers accustomed to high quality, low cost, attractively packaged imported products is fraught with challenges.

flatbed-truck-parboiled-rice

A flatbed truck hauls 30 tonnes of parboiled rice in 50 kg bags out of the Port of Conakry in Guinea after being loaded directly from a break bulk vessel carrying 20,000 tonnes. Photos by David McKee.

One of the biggest is how to attract long-term investment in farming, in land storage and processing from food companies who are accustomed to less risky, short-term trading.

In a number of the larger countries, some success is already notable with domestic production expanding while imports level off or even decline.

The picture is highly variegated from country to country and even within them.

NIGERIA AND BENIN

Nigeria’s 180 million people are estimated to consume nearly 6 million tonnes of rice per year. Just over half, or about 3.1 million tonnes, is imported despite a tariff of 70%.

In practice, very little of the foreign rice is subject to such a high duty. According to International Grains Council data, over half of imports in 2015 entered from neighboring Benin where the duty on rice is only 12%. Most of Benin’s rice imports, up to 30,000 truckloads per year, are routed via transit shipments through Niger to the northwest of Nigeria.

Since Nigeria consumes parboiled rice exclusively, but Benin prefers white rice, it is easy to deduce that the 85% share of Benin imports that are parboiled are bound for Nigeria through the orchestrations of clever traders.

Nigeria’s overseas rice purchases are highly concentrated among just a few major trading houses. According to one top importer, about 60% comes in bulk vessels from the three largest rice re-processors in Thailand with bagging at the Nigerian ports. The remaining 40% is vessel loads of break bulk bagged rice originating in southeastern or northwestern India.

Starting a few years ago, the Nigerian government has allowed these companies to pay only 30% import duty if they invest in domestic milling capacity. As a result, the small group of companies that accounts for most imports also owns a major share of the modern milling capacity.

The challenge that they and other value chain investors now face is procuring or producing enough rice to keep these mills operating.

The Rice Processors Association of Nigeria has 22 member companies who lobby the government to maintain import duties and rein in illegal shipments from Benin.

Stallion Group, a pan-African trading house headquartered in Dubai, is Nigeria’s largest rice – and automobile– importer. Amit Rai, Stallion’s chief of domestic rice operations, reports the company has also made the largest investment in domestic rice milling with capacity of 430,000 tonnes per year in three locations. The company is buying from 300 rice cooperatives and another 8,000 to 9,000 farmers spread across 14 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Rice is grown in around 23 of them. Rai says the company is targeting 1.5 million tonnes of domestic rice milling capacity. Stallion Group is present in rice – and automobiles – in a number of West Africa countries, particularly Ghana.

MALI

Thanks to a sustained effort dating back the 1980s to develop land along the Niger River for irrigated cultivation, Mali has made the most progress of any country in West Africa toward self-sufficiency in rice.

Farmers now grow 1.4 million tonnes, mostly in the zone a few hundred kilometers west of Bamako, known as Office du Niger. Annual imports have declined to only 100,000 tonnes according to USDA estimates.

City dwellers now mainly consume local rice varieties that are preferred for their freshness and aroma.

Industry and government officials frequently state that the network of canals could be extended to increase irrigated rice area by several times to 1 million hectares. Double cropping and yield in-
creases thanks to new varieties and better fertilizer application could turn the country into a large surplus producer by the end of the decade with exports flowing from the landlocked country to its neighbors on three sides.

SENEGAL

Low-cost bulk shiploads of 100% and 50% broken rice from Brazil and Uruguay make up about three quarters of Senegal’s annual imports of 1.4 million tonnes. About 100,000 tonnes is re-exported. Large-scale irrigation schemes in the Senegal River valley shared with Mauritania on the northern bank have allowed national production to gain ground.

Average farm size is small at just one to two hectares but mechanized service providers help raise productivity through tractor tilling and combine harvesting for a fee.

Policy makers in Senegal have struggled to overcome the dichotomy of low cost, good quality foreign rice exclusively for urban consumers and poor quality, higher cost, domestic rice consigned to rural households.

Private sector investment in a number of modern mills in the northern rice production zone means that well-cleaned, sorted and graded domestic rice is now available, but production costs remain much higher than in major export origins.

In place of elevated import duties that only resulted in high volumes of smuggling via Gambia, the government is now requiring the 10 largest licensed rice importers to purchase the surplus domestic production based on their share of imports. If a company accounts for 10% of imports, it must buy 10% of the commercially available local rice at government-dictated prices for inclusion in their distribution channels.

There is a second rice production zone in the southwestern Casamence region of Senegal sandwiched between Gambia and Guinea Bissau. As in the neighboring countries, paddies are carved out of mangrove swamps and long-handled wooden hoes are used to laboriously turn the earth in a subsistence farm economy with little mechanization.

IVORY COAST

Cote d’Ivoire’s success as one of the world’s leading exporters of cashews and cocoa has retarded its development as a rice producer despite optimal growing conditions for the cereal. Subsistence farming of rice is widely practiced in all corners of the country but for cash crops, farmers prefer the more lucrative cultivation of export commodities.

A handful of major food companies import 1 million tonnes of mostly high quality rice from a wide range of origins for the sophisticated consumers of Abidjan. Long grain Thai and Vietnamese varieties are preferred with perfumed rice gaining share.

Since 2012, the Ivorian government has been engaging in a state planning exercise in order to bolster domestic production. The country has been divided into 10 zones that are being grant-
ed as concessions to private operators. These include the largest rice importers as well as some foreign investors. Each concessionaire will have a semi-exclusive right to install industrial rice mills in its zone and procure from local farmers. Currently there is only one large industrial mill operating.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s ONDR is also reportedly managing a scheme to import 30 rice mills from India with financing from India’s Ex-Im Bank. Private sector players complain that excessive intervention creates uncertainty in the sector that hinders them from going ahead with investment plans.

GHANA

In neighboring English-speaking Ghana, where the business environment is much more laisser-faire, one domestic business group, Avnash Industries Ghana Ltd., is now building one of the largest industrial rice mills on the continent. The Bühler-equipped mill located in the center of the country will have capacity of 500 tonnes paddy per day. The company is also launching a palm oil refinery in the Port of Tema.

The challenge, according to rice mill general manager Sheeva Avnash, will be to secure enough local rice to keep the mill turning.

Timing for the venture may be good, given the 40% devaluation of the Ghanaian currency that accompanied the crash in petroleum prices. Some importers took big FX-related losses and incoming volumes have dropped by 30% year on year. Locally grown product should make inroads in urban markets.

Ghana is another country where parboiled rice is important. It is the only place in West Africa where U.S. rice is eaten, but the major importers report that low global prices could mean no shipment from the Gulf of Mexico in the coming year.

Singapore-based Olam is one of the leading importers.

GUINEA, SIERRA LEONE AND LIBERIA

The three countries struck by the Ebola pandemic in late 2014 faced some risk of food shortages when ships carrying rice refused to discharge in their ports. Unaffected countries like Senegal were not allowing vessels that had called at countries affected by Ebola to pull into Dakar. Disruption in local transport of food compounded the problem even further.

In Liberia, where annual rice imports total 300,000 tonnes and local production is just 200,000 tonnes, the largest importer fortunately had 55,000 tonnes on hand at port warehouses when supply stopped. Stocks dipped to 11,000 tonnes, less than two weeks of import supply for the country of 4.5 million, before rice vessels began calling again. In all three of the water-abundant countries, rice is one of the main cereal crops grown by smallholders. Very little of their harvest reaches the major cities. It is either consumed by farm families or traded at the village level.

Large stocks of rice held in port warehouses by private importers are a key aspect of food security in Liberia and other countries of West Africa.

Large stocks of rice held in port warehouses by private importers are a key aspect of food security in Liberia and other countries of West Africa.

In Sierra Leone and Guinea, imports constitute less than 25% of total rice consumption. Guinea’s milled rice production of 1.2 million tonnes would only need to be expanded by one-third to eliminate the roughly 400,000 tonnes of imports and fully meet the needs of the 12 million citizens. Rural Guineans eat rice that they parboil and dry in the sun. There are almost no automated mills with parboiling and drying using husk-fueled boilers and furnaces as in India. A small coterie of private rice importers with import licenses benefit from low duties granted by government officials who fear the slightest rise in the price of a staple food could lead to mass demonstrations as happened in a number of West African countries in 2008.

GAMBIA AND GUINEA BISSAU

To give a boost to local output, Gambia’s autocratic government issued a decree in early 2015 stating that importation of rice would be banned starting in 2016. The country of less than 2 million imported 140,000 tonnes in 2014, while the domestic crop did not exceed 40,000 tonnes. Planting has been expanding at a steady but slow pace with much effort put into research and development of new varieties. The handful of companies controlling the trade say they will heed the ban but the result could be shortages, a big increase in smuggling, and a sharp spike in rice prices. The country’s only industrial rice mill, built in 2011, was never commissioned due to a fallout between the private business group and government partner in the joint venture.

In nearby Guinea Bissau, cashews are by far the largest cash crop. The principle exporters of the raw nuts are also the leading rice importers thanks to a long tradition in the former Portuguese colony of bartering rice for cashews in bush villages.

These days, the trade is more cash based, but the same companies have mostly retained control of both commodities. Like Senegal, the two small countries get the largest share of their rice from South America in 100% or 50% broken form arriving in bulk vessels and bagged at dockside during discharge. LD Commodities dominates the supply from South America to these countries and others in West Africa.

Original PDF article as appeared in the World Grain magazine.

Going from margin to mainstream

Rice importation and production have been on the rise in eastern and southern Africa.

As a cereal crop and staple food, the place of rice has rapidly shifted in many countries of eastern and southern Africa from the margin to the mainstream. Both importation and local production of rice have been on the rise.

In rapidly developing Mozambique, high quality rice is now the preferred grain of the burgeoning urban middle class. Colorfully packaged Thai varieties occupy entire aisles of shelf space in gleaming new supermarkets of Maputo, Beira and Nampula, while maize meal dominates only in public markets.

Foreign firms, sometimes backed by their governments, have acquired vast tracts of farmland for creation of rice plantations. China and Vietnam are reported to each have 100,000-hectare grants in southern Mozambique.

rice-harvesting-kpl-tanzania

Rice harvesting at Agrica’s KPL farm in Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley 450 km from Dar es Salaam. Photo courtesy of Carter Coleman.

Among the geographically and culturally diverse countries from Khartoum to Cape Town, the two top rice producing countries are Madagascar and Tanzania with 2.5 million tonnes and 1.4 million tonnes, respectively.

The top importing country is easily South Africa with 1.1 million tonnes, thanks to its big economy and large numbers of urban consumers. Three other aspiring middle-income countries each buy about 500,000 tonnes per year from outside: Mozambique, Kenya and Angola.

In all of sub-Saharan Africa, only economic giant Nigeria tops Madagascar as a producer and South Africa as an importer. A few national and sub-regional snapshots serve to illustrate the enormous variety of the rice industry in this half of sub-Saharan Africa

MADAGASCAR

Among African countries, rice plays the biggest dietary and economic role in the giant Indian Ocean island where the 23 million people consume about 300 grams daily per capita.

Milled rice production of around 2.6 million tonnes is on a par with Nigeria and accounts for nearly 20% of all rice grown south of the Sahara. Imports of around 300,000 tonnes per year ensure variety and high quality packaged rice to city dwellers while cheaper varieties and grades help keep a lid on prices. Poor farmers grow the crop as much for subsistence as for cash.

MOZAMBIQUE

In an interview with World Grain, a top manager of a leading Mozambican food importer stated that rice imports have been increasing on a year-to-year basis by 5% to 7%. Maputo accounts for 60% of the country’s total rice imports, he estimated. The rising middle class overwhelmingly prefers rice to maize meal.

Large importers bring rice in 25-kg and 50-kg bags in break bulk vessels saving $7 or $8 per tonne over containerized shipments. Vessels sizes are mostly 5,000 to 15,000 tonnes but sometimes 30,000 tonnes.

“New players are coming into the trade. Traditional wholesalers have begun their own imports in containers with their own brands,” the industry insider added. “More and more traders are now getting into rice imports.”

He estimates there are more than 50 importers now, but the top five still have a 50% market share.

KPL has a 500 kW biomass gasification plant powering 600 tonnes per day capacity silo dryers. The six MFS/Stormor silos have a total of 4,800 tonnes storage capacity. Photo courtesy of Murray Dempsey

KPL has a 500 kW biomass gasification plant powering 600 tonnes per day capacity silo dryers. The six MFS/Stormor silos have a total of 4,800 tonnes storage capacity. Photo courtesy of Murray Dempsey

In Maputo, 80% of the imported rice is from Thailand. It is almost all 5% broken, but just 10 to 15 years ago the standard grade was 25% broken, before shifting to 15% broken.

In the less prosperous center and north, the standard is still 15% broken. The share of 25% broken is now very small. There is also more Pakistan and Indian origin rice in the Beira and Nacala corridors. Basmati rice is a small but growing share of the market.

Local rice is a sweet, long grain. Production is increasing in the rain-fed southern zone where it does well and now accounts for about one third of total consumption that stands at 750,000 tonnes. Some high quality domestic rice is also available in Maputo supermarkets from various rice millers in the south.

TANZANIA

“In a good year, Tanzania is self-sufficient in rice production,” said Carter Coleman, CEO of U.K.-based Agrica Ltd, operator of a large commercial rice farm in Tanzania. He maintains that exports to neighboring Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, all members of the EAC as well as to eastern and southern DRC, can exceed volumes of low-cost rice coming in from Asia.

Much of the incoming rice is smuggled via Zanzibar. The Tanzanian island has a special status in the EAC and is allowed to impose only a 12% duty on rice. Four or five companies bring rice legally to the island where it is rebagged and transported along the coast to small “pirate” or “dhow” ports as the local media calls them. Official data have shown Zanzibar with by far the largest per capita rice consumption in the world.

Coleman, who is also vice-chairman of the Rice Council of Tanzania, thinks that the 75% EAC import duty will be needed for some time. The Rice Council has issued a position paper that says East Africa is decades away from competing with Asian exporters of rice on a cost basis.

“Farming is rocket science and farming in Africa is like farming on Mars. You must be totally self-sufficient. You need 1.5 times the number of tractors and combines because parts are not readily available.”

Rice production in Tanzania is in four main zones including the Tsonga River Valley in the south and Arusha/Moshi area near Mount Kilimanjaro in the north.

Production is a mixture of corporate farms and smallholders. ETG’s Kapunga farm with 3,000 hectares irrigated via a 12-km canal from the Ruaha River near the Malawi border is one of the largest. It was a Japanese government project in the 1970s and was only privatized eight years ago.

Coleman remains optimistic about better government control over smuggling thanks in part to the media campaign of the Rice Council supported by its 350,000 smallholder members. Agrica’s Tanzanian farm has plans to install center pivots to increase irrigated area from 1,445 hectares to 3,037 hectares with cropping during both the rainy and dry seasons.

Small farmers have been benefiting from introduction of new varieties and better agronomic practices. In the past, rice was sown by broadcasting. Now more transplanting is being introduced. New varieties include hybrids and aromatic varieties related to basmati.

OTHER EAC

Elsewhere in the Great Lakes Region, rice has a long history as a cash crop in certain well defined areas with irrigation schemes such as the Ruzizi Plain between Lake Kivu and Lake Tangayika, straddling Burundi and South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as in Uganda on the flood plain below Mount Elgon near the southeastern border with Kenya.

Internationally funded projects carried out decades ago built dams and canals and leveled land in these areas and the local population was introduced to rice cultivation.

Indian rice producer Tilde has invested in rice farming and milling in Uganda, focusing on the basmati varieties it is known for.

In Rwanda, there has been a recent push to carve rice paddies out of the bottom of narrow river valleys throughout the country, but yields in some rain-fed highland areas can reach six tonnes per hectare.

A multitude of donors have funded projects to introduce improved seed varieties, fertilizers, mechanized farming implements, and better drying and storage facilities. The results are often mixed but progress has been made. In Bukavu, the largest city in South Kivu, the Heineken-owned Bralima brewery sources locally from the Ruzizi Plain nearly all of its rice used as an adjunct. It was still importing rice from Asia several years ago and its need has increased as beer consumption has risen sharply. In remoter parts of DRC, such as the interior of South Kivu province, rice is an important rain-fed, subsistence crop that is hand sown, manually harvested and husked. Yields rarely exceed one tonne per hectare. Kenya’s rice imports are large because it has negotiated an exemption to the EAC common external tariff that allows Pakistan rice to come in with a 35% duty in reciprocity for special treatment of Kenya’s tea exports to Pakistan.

SOUTHERN AFRICA

In South Africa, imported rice consumption mainly by middle and highincome groups in large cities has more than doubled to 1.1 million tonnes from 523,000 tonnes in 2000. Diversified food majors like Tiger Foods import and package rice under their house brands. Still, the per capita consumption figure is low among the 55-million population as maize meal remains the main staple among most groups.

The pattern is similar in other large countries like Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Oil rich, highly urbanized and food import dependent Angola has seen foreign rice consumption increase by a factor of seven in a span of 10 years from 65,000 tonnes to 450,000 tonnes.

HORN OF AFRICA

Imported rice and pasta are traditional food staples accompanying a semi-nomadic herding and trading way of life in Somalia as well as ethnically Somali Djibouti and the eastern Somali Region of Ethiopia. Smuggling is rampant so reliable import numbers are hard to come by. In Djibouti, trade data showing 120,000 tonnes of imports indicates consumption of over 120 grams per capita daily.

Rice production is a relatively new phenomenon in Ethiopia, where cereals cultivation is an ancient practice, but is starting to take hold. Planted area has increased by several times since 2005 and government is forecasting a 140,000 tonne crop for 2014-15. Foreign investors have been granted large tracts of untitled land in the water-rich tribal lowlands of the southwest to be converted to major rice plantations through costly investments in land preparation.

On the highland plain around Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, in the last decade farmers have increasingly learned to take advantage of annual flooding during the summer monsoon season by sowing rice instead of seeing traditional grain crops drowned.

Gradually, local rice is becoming a part of the urban diet in Addis Ababa and regional centers, just as it is increasing its “share of stomach” in almost all large cities of Africa.

Original PDF article as appeared in the World Grain magazine.