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Uganda government scientists in search for high-yield rice varieties | Coastweek

WAKISO Uganda (Xinhua) --  A Scientist [left] at Uganda’s National Crop Resources Research Institute laboratory conducts a research on genetically modified rice varieties in Wakiso, Uganda. A worker [right] at Uganda’s National Crop Resources Research Institute harvests genetically modified rice. Figures from the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, a non-profit organization shows that Africa can only produce up to 50 per cent of the rice it consumes, meaning that the rest is imported and thus foreign exchange lost. The African continent imports over 13 million metric tonnes of rice per year which is equivalent to about 5.6 billion U.S. dollars. XINHUA PHOTOS - RONALD SSEKANDI

Uganda government scientists in search for high-yield rice varieties

By Ronald Ssekandi in WAKISO, Uganda (Xinhua) -- Scientists in Uganda are in labs and paddies searching for high-yield varieties to feed Africa’s increasing demands for rice.

Scientists, policy makers and rice traders all agree that rice has a long value chain, which employs many people from farmers, millers to the traders. They also hail the crop’s crucial role in feeding the food insecure parts of the continent.

Researchers from Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana are using genetic modification (GM) to create rice varieties capable of withstanding depleted soils, drought and give a high yield.

In Uganda’s National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), scientists are working on a rice variety inserted with barley genes to make it more efficient in utilizing nitrogen.

Nitrogen is critical to the proper growth of a crop.

"We are harvesting a trial which started in April this year.

"The trial is concerned with understanding new rice varieties that were developed using transgenic methods under low, moderate and high nitrogen levels," Jimmy Lamo, a rice breeder at NaCRRI told Xinhua.

"We transformed variety Nerica 4, which is about 70 percent of the upland rice grown in the country but frequently gets yield penalty due to drought and low soil fertility especially nitrogen."

The trials are being carried out under strict scrutiny by the National Council of Science and Technology (NCST), a state agency responsible for regulating genetic modification technology.

Uganda is in the process of enacting a biotechnology law that will regulate the use of GM technology.

Figures from the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) show that Africa can only produce up to 50 percent of the rice it consumes while the rest needs to be imported.

"We import over 13 million metric tonnes per year, which comes to 5.6 billion U.S. dollars per annum.

That is a lot foreign exchange that we lose," Sani Kayode a Project Manager at AATF told Xinhua in an interview.

The lost revenue could be used for other development in Africa if the continent was producing enough rice, he said.

Kayode said African countries like Nigeria and Ghana that have a bio-safety law in place could go ahead and start planting the rice so that farmers can benefit.


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