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Could Be Net Exporter of Rice Next Year : Ivory Coast Moves Near Food Self-Sufficiency

Reuters

The Ivory Coast, having become the world’s biggest cocoa producer, is making rapid strides toward its latest agricultural goal of food self-sufficiency.

Rural Development Minister Gilles Laubhouet says the West African state, which last year imported 300,000 metric tons of rice, will cut that in half this year and could become a net exporter of the cereal after 1986.

The government has allocated $44 million this year to train farmers when to sow and reap, to grant them seeds, to provide fertilizers to producers of irrigated rice and to clear bush for cultivation.

“We want to create a new race of producer--the modern producer,” Laubhouet said.

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Good rains this year should mean better crops of rice and corn, which reached record levels in 1984, and assure good harvests of other Ivory Coast staples such as millet, sorghum, yams, manioc, plantain and taro.

A bumper corn crop last year enabled the country to export grain to West African Sahel states suffering from drought and famine.

“Ivory Coast is in fact already self-sufficient (in food crops),” said Laubhouet, pointing out that Ivory Coast’s 9 million people have never gone hungry. However, he concedes that his country isn’t producing enough fodder, beef and fish, and that it needs to improve grain storage facilities.

To cut fish imports of about 100,000 tons per year, the country is planning to promote fish-breeding in the coastal lagoons and inland lakes.

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The food self-sufficiency drive, launched in 1981, followed Ivory Coast’s success in becoming a major exporter of coffee and cocoa.

Trade sources put the current season’s cocoa crop at about 545,000 tons, Ivory Coast’s best ever and 145,000 tons above the world’s second-largest producer, Brazil.

It also is the world’s third-largest exporter of coffee, and last June it announced a record cotton crop of 212,000 tons, making it Africa’s third-largest producer.

The food drive also is intended to persuade young people to stay on the land, rather than migrate to overcrowded cities suffering from unemployment, and to develop regions outside the country’s coastal economic capital of Abidjan.

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Laubhouet and aid officials give much credit for the agricultural successes to President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who has ruled the country since independence.

“Ivory Coast is encouraging the private sector in farming and can grow virtually anything,” one official said. “Houphouet-Boigny has supported farming more than any other West African leader.”


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