Rice output peaked at 15.2 million tonnes in 2017, representing an increase of 8.1 percent from the previous year owing to favourable weather conditions, according to African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (Aicc).
In its recent outlook for the next three months, figures by Aicc—a non-governmental organisation that promotes the role of business development— shows that 2017 production is the highest in 11 years.
The development comes at a time farmers are producing less than the required demand despite having potential markets for the crop in Africa, Asia and Europe.
“In 2017 growing season, there was good rice production compared to 2016 and the years back. The higher yields were necessitated by a good weather pattern and good crop and land husbandry practices.
Reads the report in part: “The Aicc through the rice platform in liaison with other stakeholders in the rice value chain also facilitated capacity building for rice farmers with a good agricultural practices such as use of improved rice seed, proper land preparation and field management to further ensure that rice production keeps increasing,” reads the outlook in part.”
However, the sector is still not meeting its production potential as the outlook notes that farmers are still producing less per hectare than the average potential.
The average potential for popular rice varieties such as kilombero and faya ranges from 4 000 and 5 000 kilogrammes (kg) per hectare, but over the years farmers have only achieved 1 500 and 2 000 kg per hectare, respectively.
Experts have cited inadequate water harvesting structures, high cost of inputs such as fertilisers and failure to advance Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) that would be key for the development and maintenance of dilapidated rice schemes.
On the nature of the rice market, Aicc has expressed worry over the continued dominance of intermediaries or vendors due to the absence of a structured market for the commodity.
“Most of the cooperatives have inadequate storage and milling facilities which force farmers to sell their unpolished rice to middlemen/vendors. In addition, there is no effective and efficient price setting mechanisms in place resulting in the vendors exploiting farmers on prices,” reads the outlook.
Stakeholders in the agricultural sector are currently pushing for structured markets for grains and legumes as the current market system, where everyone is a buyer, leaves many grain farmers worse off.
The country is said to have lost around $980 billion due to an existing informal market.
Recently, the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga said a functional commodity exchange, coupled with appropriate laws and policies, could help farmers access export prices while enabling the government to track export proceeds.