Can Rice Replace Wheat on the Sudanese Table?

By: Aisha Braima

Khartoum (SUDANOW) Indeed Hassan Mohamed al-Hajj Kadous has the right to be so jubilant during the State celebrations marking the Field Day. Hassan, a farmer from Faris Al-Kitab village Gezira State, has scored the higher rate of production of the upland rice this season; His production was 8 tons per hectare, compared to the world's highest production rate of 10 tons a hectare

The upland rice project is part of the 2010-2016 Capacity Building Project carried out by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the implementation of the Executive Programme for the Agricultural Revival (The later is a national agricultural strategy set by the Sudanese government in 2008 to guarantee food security and promote exports of agricultural products). It is being implemented in collaboration with the federal Ministry of Agriculture and the ministries of agriculture in the states of the Gezira, Sennar, Gedaref, White Nile and River Nile.

Hassan attributed the high rate of production of the upland rice he has scored this season to the great support he was offered by the Japanese experts and the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Gezira State. He said last year's yield was not profitable but he did not lose hope and grew the crop this season and redoubled the efforts of growing, fertilization and follow-up processes. The farmer extended gratefulness to everyone who helped him in scoring this success.

Azhary Khalafallah, the Minister of Agriculture in the Gezira State, says in the past rice used to be planted in traditional methods. In 2010 it was planted in pilot farms, five feddans each. JICA provided the seeds and equipment and sent 65 engineers for training in Japan. In 2013 the pilot farms yielded 4 tons a hectare and rose this year to 8 which was satisfactory compared to the world's highest production rate of 10 tons a hectare. Khalafallah said this was attractive to many farmers in the Gezira, considering the high profits and low expenses compared with the other crops in addition to introducing a variety of crops for the benefit of the soil.

Hassan and the reporter
Hassan and the reporter

Jaafer Mohamed Abdulla, the federal Minister of State for Agriculture, has called for concentration on the rice crop as it is vitally effective in achieving local food security if the output is enough to secure self-sufficiency. The country currently imports an annual 40,000 to 50,000 tons while the annual local consumption ranges between 70,000 to 80,000 tons. He pointed out a change in the taste of the Sudanese consumer from bread made of wheat flour to rice, saying: "The wheat bread was not the day-to-day diet for the Sudanese people but was imposed on them as part of foreign policies. It has become a heavy burden on the budget of the state because it is imported from abroad." He added that rice constitutes the main dish on the Arab and Gulf table and "we can contribute to achieving Arab food security if we are able to score a high rate of production of the crop."

The Japanese Ambassador to Sudan, H.E. Mr. Hideki Ito, expressed his pleasure for participation in the upland rice harvest ceremony in the Gezira State this season, predicting a great future awaiting the crop in Sudan. He added that with expansion of the rice plantation, the farmers will earn high profits and the state will save the cost of importation of the commodity and may even be able to export the surplus in the future.

Japanese expert Osamu Nakagaki, the upland rice project supervisor, said the acreage under rice was substantially cut down this year compared with the previous years as the crop is still novel and requires an intensive care that includes proper weeding and regular irrigation. Cutting down the acreage, resulted in the production of four tons per feddan (one hectare equals 2.381 feddans) on a two-feddan area this season, while in the past season the production was low because the crop was grown on a relatively vast area (eight feddans), the supervisor said.
Rice farms before harvesting
Rice farms before harvesting

The Japanese expert explained that there are three stages of rice plantation which are: the demonstrative fields, the scientific research and the capacity-building for the farmers. The growing of the crop also passes through three other stages- the first one is the proper start of selecting and preparing good seeds, the second stage is the growing and expansion of the acreage and the third stage is the stability which is the marketing of the crop, he added. The first stage requires of the agronomists, supervisors and farmers to gain the skills demanded for the crop while the soil must be prepared carefully and the seeds selected accurately in addition to conducting regular irrigation processes. The expert went on to say that the Gezira State has successfully surpassed this stage during the past three years scoring a rate of eight tons per hectare, compared with the world's highest rate of 10 tons which was achieved in Egypt over many years.

The Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture of the Gezira University, Dr. Adel Dhaifalla, described the project as pioneer and promising, pointing out that it would provide crop alternatives in the irrigated schemes of the Gezira and Al-Rahad. The success of the crop will cut down the wheat consumption as a substitute in the Sudanese table, bearing in mind the climatic conditions which he said are not conducive to wheat plantation and, in contrast, are quite suitable for rice.

In order to achieve optimal results, much concern must be accorded to the scientific research, selection of the accurate seeds and farming operations, said Dr. Dhaifalla. After the success of growing the crop on those small areas, we can proceed scientifically on expansion and we are hopeful that the productivity rate would be higher in the next season, God willing, he added.

JICA Deputy Resident Representative in Sudan, Shigeru Otake, commended as remarkable the success of the upland rice crop this season, attributing the success to the fruitful partnership and joint efforts between the Sudan and Japan. It was also an outcome of the gainful cooperation by the officials of the federal and state ministries of agriculture and the farmers with the Japanese experts. "We believe that the challenge before the Sudan and Japan, together, is to make rice a strategic crop and to achieve self-sufficiency. On our part, we will provide the technical support, including highly advanced agricultural machinery both for farming and harvesting. There are three senior Japanese experts in upland rice participating in the supervision and follow-up operations from the first growing step up to the harvest," said the Deputy Resident Representative.Otake pointed out that the upland rice was grown in Uganda and was successful.
Gezira rice packets
Gezira rice packets

The Sudan possesses abundant resources for the production of sesame and gum Arabic, said Otake, adding that these two crops could bring in considerable foreign earnings if they were effectively promoted in the international markets. He said his Agency has a marketing expert for coordination with the Sudanese Ministry of Commerce on optimal ways for marketing the quality Sudanese products such as the mangoes and beef.

Otake said they have executed a number of projects and others yet to be implemented in Darfur. A water supply project for West Darfur was completed last year and so were projects in support of the vocational training centers in Darfur states.

The Deputy Resident Representative said there are several development projects and capacity building programmes being implemented in Kassala and the White Nile. "We are planning for a major assistance project in the field of water supply," Otake said, adding that his Agency has in mind further future projects for capacity-building through vocational training, technical cooperation and ideal use of water resources.


Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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