In their article in this issue of Milling and Grain, Satake explore their work conducted in West Africa, more specifically, Cote d'Ivoire. Most people will recognise Satake for their pioneering work as part of Satake Japan, Satake USA or Satake Europe, but their African office carries out a great deal of work within the raw materials sector that is also worthy of recognition.
Rice, in particular, is a staple part of the diet for many in Africa. It has seen a sharp increase in consumption and demand, especially in the past three decades and up to 70 percent of rice consumed in the country is imported to meet this demand. In 2019, Ghana reported rice production levels of 900,000 metric tonnes (mt) and it is believed that the average per capita consumption of rice in Ghana will reach 1,135mt.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) noted that Africa has the highest reserves of untapped natural resources for food production. About 10 million hectares of land is currently ebbing used for rice production, only a small portion of the 130 million hectares of land estimated to be suitable for such a purpose. Some of the hurdles that need to be overcome to increase these numbers include more resilient and nutrition-focussed agri-food systems. The unreliable water supply and susceptibility of rice to pests and diseases has also slowed down development of rice fields.
Many companies are working on ways to overcome these hurdles. The IRRI, in collaboration with the Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice) has released over 20 climate-smart rice varieties in Africa in the past ten years. Each of these varieties was selected for its resilience towards the specific issues facing rice farmers in Africa, with the goal of helping farmers produce rice that remains safe from disease/pests, profitable and easily farmable.
Effective seed systems are also being introduced that allow farmers access to good quality seeds from the private sector. The goal is to also establish a similar system for the supply of quality fertilisers and agrochemicals. Through work such as this, farmers can ensure a profitable and sustainable food future even for places that are susceptible to more challenging conditions.