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African Agricultural Advancement : Eight Nations to Sign Rice Production Agreement with South Korea

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African Agricultural Advancement : Eight Nations to Sign Rice Production Agreement with South Korea

k-ricebelt project africa south korea

In July 2023, Seoul launched an 80 million USD investment project called the “K-Ricebelt Project” in eight African countries to support the development of rice production.

A program to achieve food self-sufficiency

The program aims to provide 2,000 tons of rice varieties to Africa by 2023, and this figure is expected to increase to over 10,000 tons per year from 2027, sufficient to feed approximately 30 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa each year.

Rice is one of Africa’s staple foods and the second most consumed cereal after maize. Africa is the second most populous continent after Asia, with approximately 1.46 billion people in 2023, representing 17.89% of the world’s population.

With an area of 30,415,873 km², Africa boasts 600 million hectares of uncultivated land, which means 60 to 65% of the total arable land globally. Agriculture currently contributes 23% to the continent’s GDP and 55% of employment (ILOSTAT, 2017).

In recent years, agricultural production in Africa has experienced a significant evolution, translating into a threefold increase in production. Yet, despite these advancements, the continent continues to be a major rice importer.

The K-Ricebelt Project – Forging a historic partnership between Africa and South Korea

South Korea and Africa have a longstanding history of cooperation that has consistently yielded positive results.

Recognizing the deficit in African rice production, Seoul, through the K-Ricebelt Project, aims to share its successful method of achieving food self-sufficiency, primarily using a high-yield rice variety called “Tongil,” developed in the 1970s.

South Korea has proposed that by breeding Korean and African rice varieties, a new type of rice can be produced that can yield five to seven tons per hectare, four times more than the yields from current African types. This new variety is ideally suited for African agricultural and climatic conditions.

The primary goal of the “K-Ricebelt” project is to offer Africa a high-yielding and high-quality rice variety, as well as to share South Korea’s agricultural expertise to ensure long-term food security.

We have designed new varieties by crossing Korean species for yield and African species for adaptation to local climate,” said Lee Keun-Pyo, responsible for developing new rice varieties, at the Korea-Africa Food and Agriculture Cooperation.

In Seoul, eight African ministers, including Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye from Senegal and Minister Mamoudou Nagnalen Barry from Guinea, signed a project agreement with South Korean Minister Chung Hwang-Keun.

Food (In)security in Africa

Despite having large swathes of arable land, Africa consistently requires assistance in meeting the food demands of its people. Notably, rice consumption has continuously risen, resulting in the need to import it.

Africa is among the biggest rice consumers globally, with 301 million tons consumed in 2020. However, due to insufficient infrastructure and technology, agricultural yields are low, producing only 240 million tons of rice in the same year.

Although Africa is home to more than 60% of the uncultivated land globally, developing the agricultural sector has been challenging.

In this context, South Korea has launched the “K-Ricebelt Project” to help address the issue of Africa’s food insufficiency by boosting rice production in eight countries: Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, Uganda, Cameroon, Kenya, and Guinea-Bissau.

Rice production in Africa

Between 2017 and 2020, rice production in Africa increased by 7 million metric tons, as reported by the FAO, thanks mainly to the favorable weather conditions in the region.

The current production level of around 25 million tons is 55% higher than those between 2005 and 2007.

Likewise, rice is grown in 40 out of 54 African countries, with Nigeria, Egypt, Madagascar, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania being the top producers.

Over the past 20 years, there have been significant changes in the local production capacities of various countries, as shown in the charts below. While some African countries experienced stagnant or declining growth, most saw increased production.

Nigeria emerged as the top producer of paddy rice, with an impressive growth of 82.72% between 2010 and 2020. Despite a decline of -27.84% between 2000 and 2010, Egypt managed to secure the second position with a growth of 13.02% in the following decade. Sierra Leone also demonstrated noteworthy progress in its production level, with a remarkable increase of 427.18% over the past two decades.

Rice Importation

Africa is a major rice importer. The continent accounts for 32% of global rice imports despite representing only 17.89% of the world’s population.

According to the OECD Agricultural Outlook 2019-2028, the volume consumed per capita in the region is still expected to increase by 5 Kg, reaching 30.7 Kg by 2028. Although Africa has plenty of land for farming, weak domestic rice production and increasing local demand have led to rising rice imports.

That, however, also means that the region has the potential to become a significant market for rice imports worldwide. According to AfricaRice, rice demand has increased by 6% annually since 2020, primarily driven by population growth.

Local rice production typically meets only 60% of Africa’s consumption needs, leading to an annual import figure of roughly 15 million tons, costing over 6 billion USD. This year, Africa will likely import over 20 million tons of rice.

Agricultural investment is crucial for developing the agricultural sector in Africa. The African agricultural potential is enormous, presenting opportunities for production intensification and structuring of agricultural value chains.

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