Africa gets first hybrid rice


 
A public-private partnership project, the Hybrid Rice: Breeding by Design Project, has developed the first ever indigenous hybrid rice in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA).
 
With the new hybrid rice, Africa can boast of having  its own rice hybrids. The varieties which have been developed using the 2-line rice hybrid technology have the potential to produce 7 tonnes per hectare.
 
Rice farmers in Africa are set to increase their productivity with the new hybrid varieties that are capable of yielding more tonnes per hectare.
 
Beside Nigeria, Kenya will be among the first countries to benefit from this pioneering breakthrough in rice breeding in SSA as early as next year considering that two hybrids are already undergoing national performance trials. Farmers in Tanzania are likely to get access to the hybrids in 2018.
 
According to Dr Kayode Sanni, the Project Manager, the project is further evaluating the performance of 127 rice hybrids for advancement to national performance trials.
 
Hybrid rice seeds currently being planted in Africa are either imported from Asia or America.
 
Egypt, is the only country in Africa that has developed its own rice hybrids. With this breakthrough, Africa will realise its own high yielding hybrid seeds, consequently boosting production and moving closer to self-sufficiency in rice production.
 
While global production of rice has risen steadily from 132 million tonnes in 1960 to 491.5 million tonnes in 2015, Africa has not contributed much to the increase, producing only 3 per cent, with Asia accounting for 90 per cent of the global production.
 
Rice demand on the continent exceeds production and Africa has been forced to rely heavily on importing large quantities of rice to meet demand at a very huge cost. In 2014, for instance, Africa imported 13 million tonnes costing over US $5billion.
 

With demand increasing at between 6-12 percent over the last 10 years, Sanni  warns that the cost is likely to increase unless there is drastic increase in local production.

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