Tanzania seeks to be key rice producer in Africa

How Tanzania is racing for Africa’s top rice hub status

What you need to know:

  • Tanzania – which is the 4th largest producer of rice in Africa and the second-largest in Eastern and Southern Africa - has put in place plans and measures to increase rice production annually in an effort to reach a tipping point in 2030

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is racing against time to become Africa’s rice hub.

To begin with, the country wants to meet East Africa’s total rice demand, a senior government officer has said.

Tanzania – which is the 4th largest producer of rice in Africa and the second-largest in Eastern and Southern Africa - has put in place plans and measures to increase rice production annually in an effort to reach a tipping point in 2030 and thus be able to feed the region and beyond, according to the director of the Mechanisation Division in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ms Anna Mwangamilo.

“We have adopted a transformative technology-dependent agricultural system model for rice, which includes mass adoption of improved seeds usage and other tools, including modern irrigation,” Ms Mwangamilo told journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

She noted the provision of substantial market opportunities for smallholder farmers in the last three years, has led to assured national self-sufficiency and a sizeable surplus for export, making rice one of the most significant cash crops in Tanzania.

“In 2021, rice produced increased to over three million metric tonnes. Implementation of the 2019-2030 National Rice Development Strategy Phase II (NRDS-II), will propel Tanzania to become the regional hub for rice and associated products on or before the close of the decade,” she noted.

Implementation of the strategy by the government and the private sector has enhanced rice production and trade competitiveness. The strategy seeks to increase production to at least 8.8 million tonnes by 2030.

Development partners, including Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) and others, have also played a role in catalysing business-driven increased productivity.

Ms Mwangamilo, appreciated Agra and USAID’s supported African Rice Initiative in East Africa (CARI-EA), noting that it has set a good precedent for improving the rice value chain and making it more profitable for farmers and other players. The crop alongside maize is strategic cereal, as per Agricultural Sector Development Programs (ASDP II), which guides Agra investments in Tanzania.

Agra in an initiative named Competitive African Rice Initiative in East Africa (CARI-EA) from April 2019 to April 2022 financed by USAID contributed to increasing production and expanding market access for about 150,000 smallholder rice farmers in Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar.

“In 2021, Tanzania consolidated its position as the leading producer and exporter of rice in East Africa. It means our rice has become more competitive in terms of quality and price than the imports from countries like Pakistan, which were threatening the incomes of smallholder farmers,” notes Mr Vianey Rweyendela, the Agra Tanzania’s Country manager.

While the rest of the EAC states import significant rice, Tanzania predominantly produces enough for domestic consumption and significant surplus for export, with minimal rice imports for aroma due to consumer preference. Tanzania Ministry of Agriculture data shows Tanzania mainland exported 441,908 MT of rice in 2021 (valued at Sh476.8 billion) and 189,277 MT of maize (valued Sh72.4 billion).

The commercialisation of smallholder farmers in Mbeya, Morogoro, Iringa, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Simiyu and Coast Regions can produce adequate rice to feed Africa with existing potential opportunities.

“Tanzania has a huge rice export potential. All the conditions are ripe, and it’s a question of catalysing greater commercialisation uptake where Africa would not need to buy rice from outside the continent. The results of the CARI-EA initiative show Tanzania can greatly increase rice exports while fully meeting the domestic needs,” Mr Rweyendela said.

The CARI-EA initiative, implemented by Kilimo Trust, has shown that concerted efforts in the rice sub-sector can increase the competitiveness of locally produced rice. Tanzania has a comparative ecological advantage in rice production and demonstrated a pathway to serve neighboring countries to reduce the net importation of rice.

In the initiative, stakeholders in the private, public and civil society involved in the rice value chain pooled together 12 rice business consortia serving about 150,000 smallholder farmers with a work package on private-led extension, market facilitation, post-harvest reduction, access to finance, with deliberate intervention on women and youth for inclusivity.

The programme is concentrated in seven regions of Mainland Tanzania (Simiyu, Shinyanga, Morogoro, Mbeya, Iringa, Rukwa and Katavi) and Zanzibar (Unguja and Pemba).

The project coordinator at Agra, Mr Japhet Laizer, said farmers in about twelve rice consortiums were capacitated with business development services that led to increased production and market access.