From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.
Researchers are developing ways to increase rice production in Africa as part of efforts to fight hunger. Their work was discussed at the African Rice Congress in Cameroon last month. Experts say 60 percent of the thirty million tons of rice used in Africa is imported from Asia.
They estimate that Africa spends $5 billion on rice imports every year. And yet the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says they are still rice shortages on the continent.
Rice production was reduced in some countries after the economic crisis of the 1990s. Samantana Mark is director general of Cameroon's rice production company, SEMRY.
He says that with beginning of the crisis, African countries stopped making investments in rice production and in the marketing of rice. Issues like climate change and extreme temperatures have slowed rice production, especially in areas south of the Saharan desert.
Plant disease is also a problem. But some African researchers say they have developed rice plants that can grow in areas with little rainfall.
Nigerian-born Adekoya Madinat works with the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
"With this research we try to see how much water exactly is needed for rice production and try to see which genes are actually recruited during the event of droughts. So these genes can be used to develop drought-resistant varieties that can be planted with minimal water and we still have very good yields and food security," said Madinat.
Delegates to the congress called for great mechanization of African agriculture, and they agree that investing in rice production requires a lot of money.
Robert Guei works for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. He says that investments in rice production should be a top issue for African governments seeking to end hunger and poverty.
"African governments have to support small companies. These people have to be encouraged so governments have to come out with good policies whereby these companies are subsidized. Help them to have credits to banks and loans so that they can produce these varieties of rice and distribute and this is what FAO is doing now, talking to governments to set up policies," said Guei.
Experts say that currently, African countries produce about 12 million tons of rice per year.
And that's the Agriculture Report from VOA Learning English. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at www.voanews.cn. We are also on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and iTunes at VOA Learning English.