The Japanese government plans to establish a rice cultivation base in Africa that incorporates the country’s cutting-edge technology.
The idea is to provide assistance under a public-private framework that would oversee everything from farmland development to rice harvesting and transportation. Selection of candidate sites could begin early next year.
Another goal is to support the efforts of Japanese companies to advance into the African market. The project is to be developed under the “Japan-Africa agricultural innovation centre”.
After selecting a model district, irrigation systems and farm roads will be built using official development assistance. The project is designed to achieve large-scale production using the latest tractors, combines and other equipment to be brought in by Japanese companies.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) will lead the search for candidate sites. Tanzania in eastern Africa, where Jica has supported the development of agricultural land, is a leading candidate.
Plans are for work on the production base to begin next fiscal year and for the project to be underway by the 2022 meeting of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad).
Cheap agricultural machinery made in China and India is common in Africa. The hurdles to purchasing Japanese machines are high. To ease the burden on farmers, the centre plans to establish a “sharing economy”, in which farmers can rent out machinery when necessary.
The centre plans to mainly produce New Rice for Africa (Nerica), which combines African and Asian varieties. The sites will also be used as experimental stations where Japanese companies and others can try out new varieties and adapt farm equipment to local conditions.
To maintain the quality of the rice, the centre is planning to create a cold chain by lending refrigerated trucks to local companies so rice can be kept cool until it reaches stores. If the pilot project goes well, more bases will be built throughout Africa.
Rice production in Sub-Saharan Africa last year was estimated at about 28 million tonnes. Sub-Saharan countries have set a goal of doubling rice production by 2030. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced support for increasing rice production at the Ticad meeting held in Yokohama in August.
With China, India and other countries having played a major role in providing development assistance to Africa, it has been said that Japan has seen its presence decline.
For Japan, this project is an opportunity to turn things around using its excellent agricultural technology.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN (JAPAN)