Proposals from a grower in the Kou valley
The price of imported rice has taken a staggering upward turn this year. It has become too expensive for the population at large. Even rice produced in Burkina has not been spared. What can be done to ensure that it will again be affordable for everybody ? In this interview Abdoulaye Ouédraogo, producer and president of the Faso Djigui rice growers’ cooperative in the Kou valley in Bama, looks at ways to solve the problem.
Sidwaya (hereafter “S.”) What is the price today of the rice sold here in Bama?
Abdolulaye Ouédraogo (A.O.) It has gone up considerably in Bama. I have been growing rice for more than 30 years, but I have never seen such a sharp upturn. Today paddy rice costs 177 CFA francs per kg. Before, the going market price was 11O CFA francs. Rice in bulk now sells for 15 000 CFA francs per bag, instead of the previous 12 000 francs. Polished rice in 2kg bags is now sold for 700 francs, as compared to 400 before.
S.: Burkina Faso imports large quantities of rice. Can you produce enough in this country to feed the population?
A.O. l cannot give my word that domestic rice production will be sufficient to cover national demand. That is a bit difficult. For a long time now our own rice has accounted for 1/3 of the demand. Years ago we asked the Government to protect producers and give them a better status, to enable them to increase production and reduce imports. This did not happen. And now we are back to square one. If action had been taken to boost the morale of growers, imports could, if not have been eliminated altogether, at any case gone down.
S.: What do you want the Government to do for you in concrete terms?
A.O. We are asking the Government to make sure that rice growers can earn a living from their production. They must have an opportunity to market their rice at a good price, so that they can make a profit and have an income. If a producer earns money he has the courage to make a renewed effort. If not, he will have a hard time paying his debts, will be discouraged and will abandon rice farming.
S.: But can the Government rely on you to satisfy national demand, bring down imports and thus the price?
A.O. Burkina can count on us. We did submit proposals before, but the Government did not listen to us. In 2006 Burkina imported rice for 37 billion CFA francs. Instead of spending on imports the country should have supported its own producers. We are aware that there is not enough money in the Treasury to grant us subsidies. But the Government could help us with other production investments at an affordable cost and facilitating outlets for our products. We have seven large rice plains in Burkina Faso and a number of smaller paddies and lowlands amenable to rice production. As rice growing has not been valorised so far, some see it as a subsidiary occupation. If rice farming would be given the same status as cotton farming, I think we could scale down rice imports from 37 to 10 billion CFA francs.
S.: Local rice is often held to be of poorer quality. Generally it is said that is does not “swell”. What do you say to that?
A.O.: Local rice is of very high quality. Imported rice is over five years old. It no longer contains humidity and has little nutritional value. That is the reason why it swells. But rice grown in Burkina still has its initial nutritional substance and humidity, that is why it does not take up so much water. However, the rice we produce is good rice.
SIDWAYA (daily paper)
Thursday May 22nd 2008
See also : Situation du riz local: “Nous avons atteint un record dans le prix d’achat” (The state of local rice : “The buying price has reached record levels”)