If recent moves within government circles are anything to rely on, then rice production in Cameroon could witness a surge in no distant future. From the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development cutting through that of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, there seems to be a consensus that efforts need to be redoubled to step up local production of the highly-solicited cereal whose demand/supply shortfall almost always leads to incessant importation. Needless talking about the scarce liquidity the imports drain; money that would have been directed to other productive sectors of the economy had local production of rice been optimal.
After evaluating potential rice production zones in the Far North Region some weeks back, the Minister Delegate to the Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development alongside several operators in the rice production chain last week undertook similar visits to the West and North West Regions.
In the same vein, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister was in Avangane, Nkonteng subdivision last week to evaluate a Koreanfunded project in the locality. These are visible signs of government’s determination to do better!
The multiplicity of these efforts are indeed good steps in the right direction looking at the financial and image-building inconveniences government goes through importing what she has potentials to produce in surplus.
Even with the God-given rice production potentials Cameroon is endowed with, ranging from rich soils, conducive climate, vast lands, youthful population and possibilities of innovative research, annual rice output is reportedly turning around 100,000 metric tons. This falls far below an estimated annual demand of 300,000 metric tons.
The newfound vision, through the announced programme, has an ambition of producing 1.2 million metric tons of white rice. This is obviously hope-raising! Waking up from an apparent deep and long slumber to strive to step up local production as is the case, is at least good.
Optimists often hold that it’s always better late than never! However, such a move would only attain its entire objectives when local consumption follows suit. Stepping up local production without a corresponding increase in the consumption of what would be produced wouldn’t create any positive impact. Market forces are irresistible!
This requires quality production capable of competing with imported rice. As long as local consumers continually see as inferior locally-produced rice vis-à-vis imported one; justifiable or not, the somewhat zeal to boost local production would yield no good fruit. Besides ensuring better quality, stakeholders of local rice production would equally need to improve on its processing, packaging; the least of which would not be better communication.