Workers unload bags of rice on January 19, 2011 at the Port of Abidjan where 80% of Ivory Coast's exports transit. EU-registered ships have been barred from dealing with Ivory Coast's main cocoa ports in line with sanctions over the nation's controversial November presidential poll. The European Union last weekend slapped sanctions on outcast incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo and 84 of his associates, as well as 11 economic entities in the world's top cocoa producer. AFP PHOTO/ ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago is set to invest more in irrigation infrastructures for the Indian Ocean Islands to reduce importation of rice.

Hamad Rashid Mohammed, Zanzibar’s Minister for Agriculture, Natural Resources, Livestock and Fisheries said on Wednesday that it is shame for the island which has ample virgin land for rice production to rely on importation.

He said rice is one of the key staple foods in the 53-year-old Spice Islands, which is inhabited by more than one million people.

“In those days, 70 percent of rice consumed on comes from abroad and this was caused by the fact that most Zanzibar farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture, which doesn’t guarantee them to harvest more,” the minister said.

Mohammed added that there are many studies on the ground which has shown that if Zanzibar will seriously venture into rice farming it will meet its demand and the surplus be exported.

“The issue of improved seeds has been also addressed as there are some seeds such as the New Rice for Africa (NERICA) variety developed in West Africa, has been doing well in Zanzibar.”

According to Zanzibar Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), some farmers who have grown NERICA in Northern District of Unguja have reported bumper harvests of between 70 and 80 bags of rice per hectare.

The minister insisted that Zanzibar government is determined to ensure that irrigation is sustainable so that the country doesn’t import cereals like rice. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/