The First National Rice Promotion Event: Is rice getting more attention in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia’s first National Rice Promotion Event was held on 21 December 2018 in Addis Ababa, to examine the current status of rice research and development in Ethiopia, and to identify key issues that demand interventions. Specifically, the event – and the future annual events – take three primary focuses: (i) to deliberate on prevailing policy and development issues in the presence of all relevant stakeholders; (ii) to suggest the options in addressing the main challenges; and (iii) to create stronger linkages among key actors in the public and private sectors and development partners.

The event was attended by about 40 participants, including representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, regional bureaus of agriculture, public seed enterprises, regional agricultural research institutes, the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research (EIAR), development partners (JICA, IFAD, AGRA, SG-2000, FAO, Ethio-Rice, ATA), APRA team members, technology importers such as Amio, CropLife, Ethiopian Agricultural Business Corporation, and farmers.

Dawit Alemu, from the APRA Ethiopia country team, gave the first presentation on ‘Rice Research and Development in Ethiopia: Challenges and Opportunities’ – based on the recently published APRA working paper, A Historical Analysis of Rice Commercialisation in Ethiopia: the Case of the Fogera Plain. The presentation focused on historical trends in the development of rice sector in Ethiopia, with  emphasis on: (i) production niches, which are often called ‘Rice R&D Hubs’, (ii) the importance and comparative advantages of rice production in the country in terms of the agro-ecologies suitability, compatibility in the farming system and traditional food, the economic incentives for production, and the rise in rice imports, which is creating a burden on foreign currency reserves, (iii) trends in rice production, imports and domestic consumption, and (iv) trends in rice research and development efforts, including interventions related with the development of the national rice R&D strategy in 2010, the country’s membership in CARD initiative since 2010 and AfricaRice since 2016.

Dawit Alemu presenting at Ethiopia’s first National Rice Promotion Event

The key challenges for the sector’s development were also reported to be: (i) huge competition between imported rice and local production, (ii) a lack of skilled manpower and research facilities, (iii) poor infrastructure for commercialisation of rice production, (iv) poor marketing system for domestic production compared to imported rice, and (v) the limited contribution of commercial rice production. The presentation concluded with the need to address the stated key challenges through strengthening the functioning of the National Rice Steering and technical committees, so that the identified priority intervention options in the strategy are implemented in a timely fashion.

Dawit Alemu also took part in a panel discussion on how to promote Ethiopian rice. After the reflections from the panelists, participants raised a number of questions followed by discussions. The key messages from this discussion included:

  • It will be important to strengthen regional research institutes in order to promote use of improved technologies through local adaption research.
  • Although about 14 research centres are engaged in rice research, only Bako research centre of Oromia Agricultural Research Institute and the National Rice Research and Training Centre are active in the research. Thus, it is important to revitalise the active engagement of the other research centres.
  • It will be important to promote irrigated rice production, along with boosting the participation of commercial rice farms.
  • Need to build the capacity of extension workers, considering the specificities of rice production.
  • Enhance the introduction and use of improved technologies, especially those related with pre-harvest and post-harvest rice technologies.
  • Explore the expansion of rice production to new niche areas through demonstration and popularisation of rice.
  • Design a strategy to address the challenges facing the domestic rice marketing system, including exploring the possibility of disincentivisation of rice imports – especially poor quality rice.
  • Need to establish a national rice stakeholder’s platform to ensure improved stakeholders’ linkages and create a forum to identify and address the key bottleneck of the rice sector development.

Written by Dawit Alemu

Cover image: Event participants testing the different rice products