ARUSHA, Tanzania，2 May (Xinhua) - Tanzania has launched a five-year farming project aimed at doubling its rice production. The move came a few days after the government announced a ban on the imports of rice in order to create a bigger market for locally produced rice.
The newly unveiled Expanding Rice Production Project will have substantial areas in the eastern region of Morogoro，with the application of irrigation and modern agronomic practices to boost crop production.
"This project is being implemented by the ministry of Agriculture，Livestock, and Fisheries and in turn is meant to double rice production in the country，as well as improving income for smallholder farmers, "said Magreth Ndaba，the coordinator of the project.
Tanzania is expected to spend 2.27 million U.S. dollars on the project and three research centers will be involved. Ndaba said the project focuses on ensuring that the local market of rice is "reliable". Rice warehouses will be set up soon after harvesting and roads will be built leading to key producing areas.
Farmers are expected be supplied with seeds and empowered with better farming practices. "We want Tanzania to be the leading grower of rice in Africa as the target now is to overtake Madagascar，currently topping Africa's paddy farming bill, " said Firmin Mizambwa，CEO of Tanzania's Agriculture Seed Agency.
According to Mizambwa, Tanzania produces over one million tonnes of rice every year and is second in Africa only to Madagascar, which produces 4.3 million tonnes of rice yearly. "But Madagascar，being an Island，cannot expand its paddy farms while our country still has ample virgin land on which more large-scale farms can be established，" he said.
Mizambwa said that among the key issues in the project is to encourage farmers to venture into agri-business so that the sector could become a tool towards addressing poverty. A method, dubbed rice intensification，will be applied in the project，he said. "It is a low water，labor-intensive，organic method that uses younger seedlings singly spaced and typically hand weeded with special tools."
"A major challenge facing the rice sector in Tanzania and Africa，in general，is the inability of local production to meet the continent's demands for rice，and the continent continues to rely on importation to meet its increasing demand for the crop，" said Hussein Mansoor， a researcher with Agriculture Seed Agency.