The West African nation aims to move towards self-sufficiency and wean off imports, mainly by increasing acreage under production.

Senegal hopes to follow the Ivory Coast example where rice imports from India fell 24 percent from 2021 to 2022.
Senegal hopes to follow the Ivory Coast example where rice imports from India fell 24 percent from 2021 to 2022. (Reuters Archive)

Outside Dak village in central Senegal women sing and dance as they scythe through rice stalks with sickle or knife. The harvest is underway in the west African nation, but there will not be enough for everyone.

Many African countries rely on imported rice. But the market has been roiled by restrictions imposed in September by India, the leading global rice exporter.

"The risk (of a rice shortage) in Senegal is for real," said Waly Diouf, coordinator of a programme aimed at ending foreign dependence on this staple. 

"We don't want to buy imported rice anymore, it's very expensive," said Dieteo Diouf, who runs a women's association at Dak, in the central region of Fatick.

Africa accounts for 13 percent of the world population but 32 percent of global rice imports, according to Africa Rice, a research centre set up by 28 nations and based in Abidjan. 

"Local rice production covers only about 60 percent of current demand in sub-Saharan Africa, which means 14-15 million tonnes are imported annually," the centre said.

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Goal of self-sufficiency

In a bid to control domestic prices affected by a crippling drought, India banned exports of broken rice and slapped a 20 percent export tax on some non-basmati varieties.

The Senegalese government recently intervened and fixed the price of one kilogram of Indian and Pakistani broken rice at 50 euro cents to avoid panic and try to halt speculation.

Over recent years Senegal has grown about 840,000 tonnes of rice annually, or some nine months of local consumption, Diouf said.

The country "imports on average 900,000 tonnes of rice. That is more than is needed but the imports keep the product available and avoid speculation," he added.

"By 2030, rice consumption in Senegal is expected to reach 1.5 million tonnes," Diouf said.

"We have worked out a new strategy to move towards self-sufficiency. Financially it will cost around $2.22 million (1.37 billion FCFA)," said Diouf.

Others say that many obstacles have to be overcome to meet this often-declared goal of self-sufficiency.

"We need more rice field areas, more credit, more combine harvesters, we need to rebuild our irrigation systems," said Mouhamadou Moustapha Diack, who heads the producers' union at Boundoum in the north.

READ MORE: Changing rainfall patterns impacting India’s rice production

Source: AFP