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History of Rice in West Africa No One Knows About

History of Rice in West Africa No One Knows About

Rice, a staple food in many African countries. Rice has been cultivated in West Africa for over 3,000 years, however, about 450 years ago, the Asian species, Oryza sativa, was introduced to Africa from Asia and the demand for Asian rice has outpaced the demand for African rice among Africans.

Working in East African rice fields

Secret History of Rice in West Africa

African rice, whose scientific name is Oryza glaberrima, is unique to Africa.

Rice is not only a vital part of African culture but also a favorite food. Long-grain white rice imported from Thailand and Vietnam are more widely consumed by most West Africans.

Since 1960, when most West African countries were gaining independence, the total population of the region was just over 90 million but in the course of over 50 years, the population nearly quadrupled, reaching 342 million by 2015. Such huge population growth has a major impact on agriculture and on the demand of its food resources, especially rice.

African rice, whose scientific name is Oryza glaberrima, is unique to AfricaAccording to the Africa Rice Center, long-grain white rice dominates the markets in most of West Africa. Preferences for broken rice differs between countries. In Ghana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali Senegal and Mauritania most consumers prefer rice broken.

Broken rice is sold as a low-quality; low-cost product in most markets, but is the preferred rice product. Parboiled rice can be either of high quality with a golden tinge or low quality with a dark color.

Burkina Faso transforms a large share of its rice production into parboiled rice; this is done mostly by women. Nigeria is one of the largest importers of fully milled, high-quality parboiled rice and Liberia is one of West Africa’s top importers of low-quality parboiled rice.

Since 60 percent of West Africans are projected to live in urban areas by 2020 and the number of cities with more than 100, 000 inhabitants will grow from 78 in 2006 to more than 200 in 2030, demand for imported staples such as rice is likely to increase. This requires a significantly upgraded staple food processing capacity in the West African region.

In Mali, rice is the third most important commodity in value terms, after livestock and cotton. Since 1985, rice production in West Africa has doubled, but consumption of rice has increased even more rapidly. This has resulted in the increasing dependence of West African countries on rice imports.

A population of 80 percent farmers live on the Danyi plateau in Togo cultivation of upland red and white mixed colors rice is a specialty. The Danyi plateau farmers use the indigenous African rice, which was domesticated about 3,500 years ago in West Africa. 

African rice, whose scientific name is Oryza glaberrima, is unique to Africa. About 450 years ago, the Asian species, Oryza sativa, was introduced to Africa from Asia. A few African farmers, such as the villagers in the Danyi plateau, have continued to grow African rice because of its adaptability and its ceremonial and cultural value.

Cooking rice in SenegalAfrica eats 13 million tons of milled rice per year, of which 40 percent is imported. Nearly 21 of the 39 rice-producing countries in Africa import between 50 and 99 percent of their rice for consumption. 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Africa's inability to reach self-sufficiency in rice is the result of several major constraints in the rice industry which requires urgent addressing. In order to stem the trend of over-reliance on imports and to satisfy the increasing demand for rice in areas of West Africa.

African rice did you know?

Rice has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years in parts of Africa.

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