The Rice Sector in West Africa: A Political Challenge

Low import tariffs, smuggling activities, unpredictable tax exemptions and weak enforcement of quality and food safety standards: The potential of local rice value chains is undermined in West African countries. This article provides deeper insights into these challenges and offers strategic options to support the policy dialogue among ECOWAS countries.

With the SRI technique, the rice seedlings are planted individually in rows instead of in bundles. This allows them to develop longer, stronger roots and produce more yield. © GIZ/Klaus Wohlmann,

Johannes Agbahey

Dr. Johanes Agbahey is agricultural economist. As advisor at the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) GmbH, he is actively engaged in the development and management of projects based on requests from partner countries. His work contributes to improve agricultural policies and enhance intra-African trade.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

GIZ

West Africa remains dependent on the volatility of international markets due to increasing rice imports. Rice has become a major staple food in the diet of households in West African countries, representing 37% of cereal food consumption Despite increased domestic rice production after the food price crisis in 2008, the competitiveness of the rice sector has improved only slightly. Low import tariffs, smuggling activities, unpredictable tax exemptions and weak enforcement of quality and food safety standards have undermined the potential of local rice value chains and are harmful to West African rice farmers.


The study presents consumption and production trends as well as imports and import dependencies in the rice market. Low import protection, deficiencies in West African countries' customs systems, and government support to producers in large rice-exporting countries have encouraged extra-regional rice imports. Rice imports now cover 40% of consumption needs in West Africa, making this region one of the top rice importers with about 18% of global imports. These imports strongly compete with local rice production and discourage private investment in the rice sector. At the same time, West African governments, pursuing the goal of national self-sufficiency in rice, have directed considerable public resources to rice farming and processing. Moreover, different rice trade policies between West African countries have led to cross-border spill-over effects further complicating the task of developing cost-competitive and quality-oriented value chains and promoting intra-regional trade in locally produced rice. The challenge presented by the rice sector thus raises the issue of policy cooperation between West African countries.

 

The market power of international rice exporters, as well as dominant national agricultural and industrial policies, the goal of national self-sufficiency in rice, and the risks of climate change complicate the policy coordination of trans-regional import systems and regional trade in locally produced rice in West Africa.
 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Import and transshipment flows of rice in West Africa © Tondel et al., 2020

The study examines the main transhipment routes for both formal and informal rice trade flows, shown in the Figure. Legal transhipment of imported rice takes place when after being shipped to a West African port, the imported rice is transported throughout the region, particularly to supply landlocked countries in the Sahel. However, in several cases, imported rice crosses borders illegally, circumventing customs duties and regulations. Up to 85% of Beninese imports are re-exported to Nigeria through highly ramified smuggling networks over which the two states have little control.

 

Several Beninese localities serve as hubs for trade with Nigeria. These include old cities that perpetuate traditional commercial activities despite the border between the two countries. Besides frequent import bans, high transport and logistics costs in Nigeria encourage importers and traders to carry Asian rice through Benin. These high costs are due to several factors: bottlenecks at the ports of Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar; high transaction costs and clearance fees; difficult transport between ports and inner cities (Abuja, Kaduna, Kano and others). In contrast, Benin, with the port of Cotonou and good management of its road network, offers to the Nigerian traders a more efficient ‘logistics platform’ to reach Nigerian consumer markets. This is more the case since the Beninese administration largely eliminated the checkpoints and as road transportation delays are the lowest in the region. Revenues and profits from the smuggling of imported rice between Benin and Nigeria are shared between a complex network of actors on both sides of the border.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Selected rice political events in the Central Trade Basin, 2008 - 2018 © Tondel et al., 2020

Policy events at regional and country levels affect rice imports and production in different ways. As elsewhere on the African continent, West African governments immediately responded to the 2008 food price crisis by reducing import duties and other taxes on imported rice and other cereals. However, reductions in import duties entail large fiscal costs and do not properly target the most exposed populations – the poorest are not the biggest consumers of rice, and traders do not pass on cost reductions to consumers to their fullest extent.

 

At the same time, those initiatives mainly allocated resources to irrigation infrastructure and rice farming technological research, with the result that few benefited from those investments. With the adoption of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) for extra-regional trade in 2013, rice was assigned a 10% import tariff, which provides little protection to rice producers in the region. In addition, the implementation of the CET differs between countries (for example, Nigeria usually applies an import duty on rice much higher than the 10% CET), and ECOWAS member states continue to use other tariff-like trade policy tools, such as import and export bans, for the purpose of regulating supplies and prices in domestic markets.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Selected rice policy events in the eastern trade basin, 2008 – 2019 © Tondel et al., 2020

For instance, since 2008, the government of Ghana has banned exports of locally produced rice and took regulatory measures to stop rice imports through land borders. Following the major cereal production shortfall in the Sahel in the marketing year 2011 – 2012, Mali suspended import duties. In response to an unusually strong import demand in Mali, in late 2011 the Burkinabe government responded by enacting a ban on exports of rice and other cereals. To limit rice smuggling from Benin and Niger and to protect the domestic rice industry, the Nigerian government has placed substantial import tariffs on rice, reaching 110% in 2013. Taking a step further, Nigeria enacted between May 2013 and October 2015 a ban on land imports. Subsequent to the re-opening of borders, rice trans-shipments surged again, leading Nigeria to place a full ban on imports by land from Benin and Niger since 2019. Those government interventions contribute to the volatility in rice prices and trade across the region as shown in the figures.

 

The three synergistic reform areas that have been identified are: regulating extra-regional rice imports, structuring domestic rice markets for improved quality-cost competitiveness, and promoting intra-regional rice trade for regional rice market development. Recent developments indicate that progress in regulating rice markets and developing competitive and inclusive value chains is possible. This requires the alignment of interests, incentives for private investment, and the promotion of a coherent policy that links a tighter regulation of imports with the structuring of domestic markets.

 

Progress in regulating rice markets and developing competitive and inclusive value chains is possible. This requires an alignment of policy and private sector interests, as well as incentives for private investment and coherent policies to regulate and structure imports and domestic markets.

 

Building on the existing momentum in regional trade, trade facilitation could further contribute to strengthening the rice value chain and have positive impacts on livelihoods, food security and job creation. In this context, the development of the rice sector as part of a more sustainable agricultural and food system also depends on the interests of the various countries in better coordinating national rice policies and implementing regional trade agreements.

The study therefore aims to support private and public actors, stakeholders and networks in the rice sector to reach consensus on feasible measures and reforms.

 

Developing the rice value chain and promoting rice trade for the benefit of West Africa requires a comprehensive policy dialogue on coordinated national rice policies and regional trade agreements. This study supports ECOWAS in this endeavour.

 

The study was conducted by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) and the Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale (IPAR) and financed by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).



The discussion paper and further information can be found here.

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Tony Rinaudo uses conventional reforestation methods to plant millions and millions of trees – and Volker Schlöndorff is filming a cinema documentary about the Australian. The outcome so far: An educational film on behalf of the BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development).

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The state of food security in Cape Town and St. Helena Bay

A study by Markus Hanisch, Agustina Malvido, Johanna Hansmann, Alexander Mewes, Moritz Reigl, Nicole Paganini (SLE)

Post-Covid-19 lockdown: How food governance processes could include marginalised communities - an extract of the results of an SLE study applying digital and participatory methods.

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Karel Prinsloo/Arete/Rockefeller Foundation/AGRA

"Nutrition is a human right"

Interview with Joe DeVries (AGRA)

Joe DeVries is a breeder – and Vice President of AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa). What are the chances and risks of a ’green revolution‘ in Africa? A discourse between Jan Rübel and him about productivity, needs, and paternalism.

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(c) Nina Schroeder/World Food Programme

Green from the growth container

A contribution by Maria Smentek (WFP)

If there is a lack of fertile soil and rain, hunger breaks out quickly. Maria Smentek from the World Food Programme (WFP) explains how farmers and pastoralists can counter climate change with hydroponic-systems.

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(c) Gudrun Barenbrock/GIZ

Edible bugs - the new beef?

A contribution by Marwa Shumo

Insect farming is economical and environmentally sustainable, they are high in protein and they live on agricultural waste. Marwa Abdel Hamid Shumo thinks: They are the best weapon to combat hunger

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(c) Thomas Lohnes / Brot für die Welt

The hype about urban gardening: farmers or hobby gardeners?

A contribution by Stig Tanzmann

Urban gardening is becoming increasingly popular in northern metropoles. People who consider themselves part of a green movement are establishing productive gardens in the city, for example on rooftops or in vacant lots. In severely impoverished regions of the global South, urban agriculture is a component of the food strategy.

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5 questions posed to the SEWOH commissioner Dirk Schattschneider

Interview with Dirk Schattschneider (BMZ)

For about a year now, Dirk Schattschneider has been the commissioner for the special initiative "ONEWORLD No Hunger" (SEWOH) of the BMZ. In the interview, he looks back on the challenges of the past year and at the same time takes a look into the future.

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How the self-help approach empowers smallholder women

A report by INEF and Kindernothilfe

Supporting groups of smallholding women substantially contributes to strengthen rural operations economically. The organisation and associated group activities can help to reduce extreme poverty and improve the food situation.

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Gender equality: Essential for food and nutrition security

A contribution by Carsta Neuenroth (BfdW)

The majority of producers in developing countries are women. Although they contribute significantly to the food security of their families, they remain chronically disadvantaged in male-dominated agriculture in terms of access to land, credit, technology and education.

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Success story allotment garden: Food supply and women's empowerment

A contribution by Nadine Babatounde and Anne Floquet (MISEREOR)

To prevent malnutrition among young children and strengthen the role of women in their communities, Misereor, together with the local non-governmental organisation CEBEDES, is implementing a programme on integrated home gardens in Benin - a series of pictures.

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An investment in Africa's future

A contritbution by Essa Chanie Mussa (University of Gondar)

Rural youth need viable livelihood opportunities to escape out of poverty and realize their aspirations. How could they be helped to fully unleash their potential? This is an aloud call that needs novel strategies among governments, policy makers, and international development partners and donors.

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JOERG BOETHLING / GIZ

Continent in an uptrend

A report by Dr. Agnes Kalibata (AGRA)

Partnering for Africa’s Century: Innovation and Leadership as Drivers of Growth and Productivity in Rural Areas

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© GIZ

Actual Analysis: The locusts came with the crises

A report by Bettina Rudloff and Annette Weber (SWP)

The Corona-Virus exacerbates existing crises through conflict, climate, hunger and locusts in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. What needs to be done in these regions? To face these challenges for many countries, all of these crises need to be captured in their regional context.

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"Extreme is the new normal"

A report by Alexander Müller and Jes Weigelt (TMG)

As the climate changes, the population of Africa is growing and fertile land and jobs are becoming scarcer. New ways are currently leading to urbanisation of agriculture and a new mid-sized sector in the countryside

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© GIZ / Angelika Jacob

This is how developing countries can adapt better to droughts

A contribution by Michael Brüntrup (DIE) und Daniel Tsegai (UNCCD)

Droughts are the natural disasters with far-reaching negative consequences. While rich countries are still vulnerable to drought, famines are no longer found.

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(c) Christof Krackhardt/Brot für die Welt

Together and resourceful against worldwide hunger

A contribution by Brot für die Welt

Climate change disturbs the climate in Ethiopia. The answer from small farmers in the northern region is convincing: diversify!

 

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(c) Christoph Mohr/GIZ

Microinsurance against climate change

A contribution by Claudia Voß

Climate change is destroying development progress in many places. The clever interaction of digitalisation and the insurance industry protects affected small farmers.

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(c) Nina Schroeder/World Food Programme

Hunger is caused by people, not the climate

Interview with Jacob Schewe (PIK)

A study by the World Bank predicts that millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa will have to leave their homelands because of climate change. We have spoken with one of the authors

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Land Rights, Gender and Soil Fertility in Benin

A contribution by Dr. Karin Gaesing and Prof. Dr. Frank Bliss (INEF)

Especially in densely populated areas, land pressure leads to overexploitation of available land and a lack of conservation measures. The West African country of Benin, with heavily depleted soils in many places, is no exception.

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Mr. Marí, what happened at the alternative summit?

An Interview with Francisco Marí (Brot für die Welt)

Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World) did not attend the UNFSS pre-summit. Instead, the organisation took part in a counter-summit that took place at the same time. A conversation with Francisco Marí about the reasons, the process - and an outlook for the future

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What is wrong with our nutrition in Germany, Mr. Plagge ?

An interview with Jan Plagge (Bioland)

Vitamin-poor nutrition must become more expensive, in-vitro meat is not a panacea, and agricultural systems should be more decentralised. Bioland President Jan Plagge in an interview about the challenge of (future) world nutrition.

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How Can We Feed The World in Times of Climate Change?

A Contribution by Jan Grossarth

Genetically modified bacteria become edible proteins, cows graze on pasture, and no waste is produced in an industrial circular economy. Journalist Jan Grossarth sees a silver lining for the future of world nutrition

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Food System Transformation Starts and Ends with Diversity

A Contribution by Emile Frison and Nick Jacobs (IPES-Food)

While having failed to solve the hunger problem, industrial agriculture appears to be causing additional ones both in environmental and health terms. Emile Frison and Nick Jacobs call for a transformation.

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Engaging the Community to Solve the Bushmeat Crisis

A Contribution by the Forestry Research Institute Nigeria

The 'Domestication of Small Monogastric and Ruminant Animals' (DSMR) project led by a Nigerian research institute works with local communities to solve the bushmeat crisis.

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City, Country, Sea: 6 Innovations in the Fight Against Climate Change

A listicle for climate-neutral agriculture

Vertically growing plants, magnetic cotton. Hairy leftovers fertilizing fields, tractors running on algae? These six innovations could lead agriculture’s next Green Revolution!

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(c) Privat

How much private investment is the agricultural sector able to bear?

By Pedro Morazán

Small farmers in developing countries must modernise their farming methods, but poorly understood reforms could exacerbate poverty instead of alleviating it.

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Uli Reinhardt/Zeitenspiegel

No dirty dealing

Von Marlis Lindecke

Shit Business is Serious Business: A successful cooperation between research and the private sector.

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Is the international community still on track in the fight against hunger?

Interview with Miriam Wiemers (Welthungerhilfe)

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020 shows that the world is not on track to meet the international goal of “zero hunger by 2030”. If we continue at our current speed, around 37 countries will not even have reached a low hunger level by 2030.

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Video: 4 Questions to Claudia Makdristo

A video clip by Seedstars

Startups are booming in African agriculture. What are the current trend and challenges – and can other regions benefit from innovative approaches? A Video-Interview with Claudia Makadristo, Regional Manager of Seedstars  

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ONE WORLD no hunger - Meet the people driving rural transformation

A program by the partners of the special initiative One World no Hunger

The future is rural. On September 24, meet leaders and visionaries from Africa and South Asia who will enter into dialogue with european key actors.

Join uns here to meet the people.

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A new attempt at Africa's industrialization?

A contribution by Helmut Asche

Afrika is about ready. There are promising approaches for a sustainable industrialization. However, the path poses challenges to the continent.

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What is Our Food Worth to Us?

A Contribution by the TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

Towards integrated accounting standards in the food and farming sector with the help of True Cost Accounting (TCA).

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