Zimbabwe has plans to exponentially increase the production of rice with Japan’s assistance by facilitating the adoption of hybrid varieties of the commodity that increase yields.
JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) will provide Zimbabwe with rice varieties that are adapted to the country’s climate.
Both lowland and upland rice cultivation, as well as the production of the New Rice for Africa (Nerica) variety, have been advised by JICA’s technical advisor on rice, Mr. Tatsushi Tsuboi.
Nerica, a crossbreed of African rice species, is renowned for its high yields, resistance to pests and diseases, and drought tolerance. JICA collaborates with the government of Zimbabwe on a number of projects, including those involving technical assistance, road rehabilitation, and agriculture.
Recently, Japan offered a grant aid of about US$21 million to rehabilitate a steep section of the North-South Corridor road between Makuti and Chirundu.
Rice In Zimbabwe
According to reports, rising domestic demand is the primary driver of increased rice imports. Despite having sizable tracts of fertile land that can produce the cereal, the demand of which is constantly rising, Zimbabwe imports more than 95% of the commodity. About one tonne of rice is produced locally by farmers each year, compared to more than 250,000 tonnes imported.
As per JICA’s technical advisor in a recent interview, “There is a potential for farmers here (Zimbabwe) to better their yields. The researchers need to be capacitated to impart the knowledge to the extension officers and to the farmers. It is about expanding seed production.”
“Farmers need to breed the seeds, then plant, and after harvesting, that also becomes the seed as well, and farmers can then share the seeds; that way, production will go far.”
Despite the fact that only a small number of farmers grow the cereal next to maize on a commercial scale, communal farmers sporadically plant the crop in wetlands.
Works By Zimbabwe’s Government
In an effort to increase domestic rice production, the government has been conducting studies and trials since 2021 in collaboration with other agricultural partners.
The Government is reportedly working on interventions to lower the high import bill for rice, which has been an average of US$80 million per year over the last three years, according to The Sunday Mail Business. Nearly $100 million was spent to import bulk rice in 2022 alone.
According to the Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Development Vangelis Haritatos, research is being done on cultivars that can produce “10 tonnes per hectare” of yield. In the past, the authorities and Seed Co. worked together to conduct research to find machinery, procedures, and technologies that could be used in the production of rice.
The introduction of rice as another staple could be crucial for the Zimbabwean economy, according to Mr. Brian Ruzvidzo, a commercial farmer in Macheke, Mashonaland East. He mentioned that “Most of the rice worldwide is cultivated on dry land under irrigation. We must copy such strategies and maximize the benefits. This will reduce our reliance on rice imports.”
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