Researchers are developing ways to fight hunger in Africa by increasing rice production. The African Rice Congress discussed the work at a meeting in October. Experts say 60 percent of rice used in Africa is imported from Asia. They estimate that Africa spends $5 billion to import about 30 million tons of rice every year. And yet, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization says there are still rice shortages on the continent.
Rice use decreased in some African countries after the economic crisis of the 1990s. African countries stopped investing in rice production and marketing. Issues like plant disease, climate change and extreme temperatures have slowed rice production, especially in areas south of the Sahara desert. Some African researchers say they have developed rice plants that can grow in areas with little rainfall. Nigerian-born Adekoya Madinat works with the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences. He says he is researching genes in rice plants that can be used to develop new rice plants. The new rice plants would be able to survive a lack of water. Robert Guei works for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. He says that investments in rice production should be a top issue for African governments seeking to end hunger and poverty. He says African governments can support small companies with policies that lead to improved opportunities for credit through bank loans. He says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization is helping governments set up such policies. Experts say that African countries currently produce 12 million tons of rice per year.