Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has for the last two decades been experiencing a continuous increase in rice consumption driven mostly by a shift in consumer preferences, urbanisation and rapid population growth. Rice has therefore become a staple of considerable strategic importance, of which its growing demand poses an economic challenge for the continent. Annual rice consumption in SSA stands at 24.3 million tonnes while production is estimated at 12.5 million tonnes (MT) of milled rice, most of which is produced by smallholder farmers.
The current insufficient rice production affects the well-being of over 20 million smallholder farmers who depend on rice as a staple. SSA countries are spending more than US$ 5 billion annually on rice imports. The rice production deficit along with the subsequent large outflow of foreign exchange presents a great development challenge to governments and development agencies in SSA.