Mozambique, which depends on imports to meet about half its rice needs, aims to become a grain exporter after achieving self-sufficiency as early as 2015 with technical and financial assistance from Japan and Brazil.
"The government would like to eliminate" the deficit in the rice supply, Ventura Macamo, an adviser to Mozambique’s agriculture minister, said in Tokyo. "We believe that five years of good investment" will probably make the nation self- sufficient, he said. The African nation consumes about 500,000 metric tons a year, more than output of 260,000 tons, he said.
Japan, the world’s largest grain importer, helped Brazil become the second-biggest farm exporter under a $774 million development program prompted by a food crisis three decades ago. Exports from Mozambique may increase competition in the global rice market, now dominated by Thailand and Vietnam, while alleviating poverty and malnutrition in Africa.
"Brazil’s emergence as a major grain exporter has made a great contribution to the stability of the crop price and supply," said Yutaka Hongo, an official from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the nation’s overseas aid provider. "If Africa becomes another supplier, that will enhance food security not only for Japan but other importers."
Mozambique is aiming to export rice to neighbors including South Africa and Botswana as Japan and Brazil have started an aid program to turn tropical savanna into farmland, Macamo said. The government also plans to boost output of corn and soybeans for overseas shipments and to feed the domestic livestock industry, he said.
The price of corn, soybeans and rice climbed to records in 2008, triggering riots in developing countries as a rising global population, economic growth in emerging markets, and increased use of the crops for biofuel production lifted demand. Japan, the biggest corn importer and second-largest soybean buyer after China, expects increased production will help stabilize grain supply and price.
Mozambique can boost rice production using drought-tolerant varieties grown in Brazil’s tropical savanna, said Pedro Antonio Arraes Pereira, the president of Brazilian Agricultural Research Corp. Because of the similarities in climate and soil conditions, Mozambique can achieve yields equivalent to Brazil, which produces 2.8 tons of soybeans and 4 tons of corn per hectare on average, Pereira said.
Mozambique has 55 million hectares of tropical savanna, of which 3.6 percent is under cultivation, according to data from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Companies from Brazil and Japan, including makers of agricultural machinery and chemicals, may benefit from the program in Mozambique, said Emiliano Pereira Botelho, the president of Grupo Campo, an agribusiness and consulting company based in Brasilia.
Grupo Campo acted as a coordinator between the public and private sectors in implementing the two-decade program of turning Brazil’s Cerrado into a farming region. The project started in 1980 with aid from Japan, which sought alternative suppliers after the U.S. embargo on soybean exports in 1973 boosted costs for its food and feed.
Source: Business Week
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