By Prossy Nandudu
Ugandan rice millers have appealed to East African Community heads of state to stop the importation of rice from Asia to allow the local rice industry to grow.
They said rice from Asia has flooded the market out- competing Ugandan and other member state’s grown rice which is more expensive due to the production costs.
The rice miller’s representative, Ambassador Phillip Idro, said the EAC region spends close to sh20b on rice importation and a lot more is smuggled into the countries.
“If that money was channelled to increasing production at country then regional levels, it would ensure regional self-sustenance on rice,” said Idro.
He said Nigeria, once a big importer of Asian rice, is finalising plans to stop the importation and are encouraging consumption of locally grown rice.
“Rice from Asia is cheaper. Some of it is smuggled into the country and sold at any price,” he added.
“The East African heads of state should revise the rice policy and ensure there is increased local production before allowing in some import,” said Idro.
Quoting UNCTAD statistics, a trade economist in the EAC affairs ministry, Lawrence Othieno said Uganda earned $1.2b from rice exports in both 2011 and 2012. He said, however, that the growing population demands more rice for consumption.
In 2009, rice demand in Uganda was at 250,000 metric tonnes and it is projected to increase to 550,000 metric tonnes annually in five years.
However, in the last five years rice production grew from 70,000 metric tonnes to 300,000 metric tonnes statistics show, which experts says is still below local demand.
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