Zero rice imports – an objective for Burkina?

The title of this newsletter is inspired by an article by Sabine Cessou sent to me by a friend. It is sufficiently short and interesting to enable me to submit the text in full to you, adding a commentary.

elefan a32sourou 797”Nigeria - Objective : Zero rice imports.”

”By 2015 Nigeria should no longer be importing rice from Thailand, America or Bénin. that the production of domestic rice would be a priority for him until the end of his mandate four years from now. «”There is no reason why Nigeria should import rice.”», declared at a meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD,

Like Zimbabwe, a nation that used to export its rice surplus, Nigeria has the capacity of arriving at self-sufficiency and even of exporting rice to the sub-region. Its objective: Meet the needs of 152 million Nigerians, while supporting its agriculture. Agriculture is the number one pillar of the national economy (37% of GDP), ahead of mining and oil (30%) and already has the benefit of a volitional government policy.

Its growth rate surpassed 6% in 2010, thanks to sufficient rainfall and a specific loan programme for the marketing of farm products (Commercial Agriculture Redit Scheme, CACS). The government has partially solved the problems of high interest rates on loans to farmers by injecting 200 billion naira (905 million €) into to low interest loans to producers.

For the time being the Nigerian decision is only being announced, but is already as such a commendable example. A good number of other West African countries are able to achieve self-sufficiency, but there is a lack of political will – among other things because of the considerable markets that the big rice importers, often connected with people in power, wish to keep for themselves.” (Sabine Cessou)

Let us recall that in 2004 (and today still?)Nigeria was the biggest rice importer in the world,, with volumes of over a million tonnes.

The first question that occurred to me, when reading the author’s conclusion was this: Did Sabine Cessou have Burkina Faso in mind when stating: « ”A good number of other West African countries are capable of achieving self-sufficiency, but there is a lack of political will – among other things because of the considerable markets that big rice importers, often connected with the people in power, wish to keep for themselves”? Because in our own columns we have often written: Burkina Faso could well attain self-sufficiency in rice. But to subsidise foreign rice, as its government is no doing, is not the best way to get there!

But what I find altogether interesting in the present standpoint of the Nigerian president, is that it comes at a time of intense negotiations on the Common External Tariff (CET), i.e. the whole range of import duties of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS. However, if Nigeria really wishes to achieve self-sufficiency in rice, it cannot limit itself to a 10% import duty on foreign rice. That is, however, the rate presently applied to rice within the West African Economic and Monetary Union, WAEMOU, and consequently also the ECOWAS since January 2006. It was Nigeria that obtained a fifth tariff band of the CET. If it brings all its weight to bear on the issue, it could succeed in getting a 50% duty on imported rice.

In light of the development of the world market, such an import duty would mean a definite protection for producers against competition from imports of cheap foreign rice.If the ECOWAS decided on such a tariff rate on imports, it would be possible to invest in the sector, even heavily, as would be required for the development of irrigated rice cultivation in the plains. If the ECOWAS decided to introduce such a tariff rate, in a few years Nigeria and Burkina Faso could become self-sufficient in rice and even all of the ECOWAS.

l If the ECOWAS resolved to protect all of its agriculture, adding to this a ( long term) resolute agricultural policy, West Africa would become a powerful agricultural and food producing region. It has the land, the water, the sun, the men and the women to do so. Today, only the political will is missing.

Koudougou, September 3, 2011

Maurice Oudet
Director of SEDELAN

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