Thursday, November 19, 2009

We guess Senegal will have to export instead

The rice harvest is booming in Senegal... but no one there wants to eat it. After the food crisis of last year, Senegal decided to produce more rice. The problem is, the tastes of the public still prefer the rice imported from Asia.

It's an example of the public's preference running counter to the efforts to increase local food production to protect against future food price shocks.

From this AFP article that we found at Google News, writer Laurence Boutreux tries to answer why the Senegalese prefer foreign rice.

But the Senegalese, who serve rice with so many meals, said no thanks. Why? That's where it gets sticky.

Explanations range from taste to social standing to the legacy of colonialism. Whatever the reason, the government is now figuring out how to promote locally grown rice and hopes to import none of the staple by 2012.

It seems they may have a hard time achieving that goal. Last year, over three quarters of the 800,000 tonnes of rice consumed by the Senegalese was imported from Asia.

The impetus for change came from the food crisis, which had sent prices of imported rice soaring. Senegal has since been pushing locally grown rice to rely less on agricultural imports, but despite good crops, much remains unsold.

According to the latest official estimates -- disputed by some producers -- the rice harvest will be at 508,481 tonnes for 2009, up 25 percent compared to 2008.

The figures have prompted a promise from Senegal's agriculture minister that the country "will not import a single kernel of rice in 2012".

But what if no one eats it?

One expert blamed the problem on the legacy of colonialism.

"It dates back to the colonisation," said Wore Gana Seck, the head of the commission for durable development and environment at Senegal's economic and social council.

"Before the Senegalese ate millet and sorghum, but the French imposed a monoculture of peanuts on farmers and imported broken rice from their other colony Indochina for the Senegalese to eat," she says.


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