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Rice sector trends in West Africa

23 June 2013

In April 2013, the USDA published its annual report on rice in West Africa. The analysis estimates that production of milled rice in marketing year (MY) 2012/13 in West Africa (excluding Nigeria) will reach 4 million tonnes, up by 10.1% from the 3.6 million tonnes produced during poor rains in MY 2011/12 (which was down 13% on production in 2010/11).

Rice production in the Sahel increased by 12% in 2012/13 due to good rainfall. The following increases in rice production were achieved for MY 2012/13:

  • Burkina Faso             +15% to 180,000 tonnes
  • Côte d’Ivoire               +10% to 500,00 tonnes
  • Mali                               +16% to 1,300,000 tonnes
  • Senegal                       +60% to 443,000 tonnes.

Production in Mali, however, was well below the government target of 2.7 million tonnes for 2013, while in Niger floods reduced production to a mere 3,000 tonnes.

Rice consumption has grown strongly in recent years, with “new consumers… eating rice and current ones… eating more”. Patterns of demand vary from country to country and between rural and urban areas. In some countries (e.g. Mali) local rice is more popular, while in others (e.g. Senegal) imported varieties such as fragrant rice are more popular. Quality concerns over local rice production arise in some countries, in part linked to weaknesses in the functioning of supply chains. Several initiatives are taking place at the national level to address quality concerns.

ECOWAS also reported on the launch in 2012 of a major regional initiative in the form of a “regional offensive for sustainable rice production in West Africa” in its strategic policy paper of September 2012.

In MY 2011/12, rice imports increased by 43%, reaching 4.2 million tonnes. Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, the two biggest rice importers reviewed, saw imports increase by 64 and 55% respectively, while imports into Burkina Faso and Mali increased by 70 and 65% respectively. A 3-month suspension of import duties in Côte d’Ivoire strongly encouraged rice imports.

In 2012/13, imports are projected to fall by 15% in response to improved local rice supplies. Re-exports occur within the region, given the different import arrangements in place in different countries.

Rice: production, consumption and imports of milled rice for selected West African countries (2012–2014)



(milled, ’000 tonnes)


(milled, ’000 tonnes)


(milled, ’000 tonnes)

  2012 2013 2014 2012 2013 2014 2012 2013 2014
Burkina Faso 157 180 180 420 450 475 390 270 280
Chad 118 116 120 123 130 135 30 20 20
Côte d’Ivoire 456 500 600 1,400 1,700 1,800 1,400 1,150 1,100
Gambia 11 25 30 110 120 130 100 100 100
Guinea-Bissau 105 119 120 220 230 240 150 100 100
Guinea Conakry 1,098 1,110 1,100 1,360 1,390 1,410 340 360 300
Mali 1,130 1,310 1,350 1,400 1,450 1,480 180 100 100
Mauritania 85 110 110 170 180 190 100 100 100
Niger 8 3 20 283 281 300 230 280 280
Senegal 276 443 475 1,325 1,400 1,450 1,200 1,000 1,000
Togo 73 80 80 168 170 180 100 100 100
TOTAL 3,517 3,996 4,185 6,979 7,501 7,790 4,220 3,580 3,480

Source: USDA, GAIN Report, 18 April 2013 (see below), extrapolated from Table 1, p. 8

USDA’s analysis projects that rice production for 2014 in the countries reviewed will increase by 4.7% and consumption by 3.8%, compared to 2013. Imports are projected to fall by 2.8%, marginally increasing regional rice self-sufficiency.

The USDA report notes that an investment agreement was signed in January 2013 between the government of Côte d’Ivoire and Louis Dreyfus Commodities for the production of 300,000 tonnes of rice. Agreements with two other investment groups (Olam and Mimran) are reportedly pending. The aim of Côte d’Ivoire’s Revised National Rice Strategy is to produce 2 million tonnes by 2020.

In Burkina Faso, USDA reports that a Taiwanese-supported project is providing inputs, credit and storage facilities as part of rice sector development plans, while in Senegal in February 2013 the government announced a new partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency as part of Senegal’s National Strategy for the Development of Rice. A production target of 1 million tonnes of rice by 2018 has been set (revised from the former target date of 2015). While support is also being mobilised via the US Millennium Challenge Corporation, USDA believes that the target of 1 million tonnes by 2018 is “optimistic”. 

Editorial comment

Rice is becoming a key strategic regional commodity and food security crop in West Africa. Although there has been a significant increase in rice production after 2008 – according to the Africa Rice Centre, average rice yields in sub-Saharan Africa increased around 30% from 2007 to 2012, a rate higher than the global average but from a lower yield base – imports have surged since 2010 (+41% in 2012 compared to USDA data on imports in 2010) as international rice prices have fallen and consumer demand continues to increase. Import dependence rose from around 53% in 2010 and 2011 to 60% in 2012, as production fell from the heights attained in 2011.

While import dependence is projected to fall substantially to around 46% in 2013 and 2014, production remains vulnerable to weather patterns, as past experience shows. With growth in consumption showing no such variability (having increased by 25.5% between 2010 and 2012 and projected to increase by a further 11.6% by 2014), reducing import dependence for rice is likely to be a long-term and expensive project, even in view of the investments planned and under way in the rice sector. Indeed, some countries’ rice imports may continue to increase. This is particularly the case in countries not covered by the USDA review, such as Nigeria, given the rapid growth in consumer demand.

The underlying reality of growing consumer demand for rice needs to be taken into account in the policy formulation process at both national and regional levels. This requires the design and implementation of appropriate policy measures that support production, while allowing growing consumer demand to be met within a managed trade framework (see Agritrade article ‘ EU rice market developments and prospects’, 22 April 2013). The recent launch of the “regional offensive for sustainable rice production” reflects the growing willingness of ECOWAS member states to address this strategic issue.


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