CAMEROON – Minister of Trade, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana,  has instructed regional governors to “reactivate, until further notice, the ban on rice re-exportation” to safeguard rice supply amid global scarcity and rising import prices.

The minister made this notice known in a letter dated January 11 citing internal food security concerns.

Rice is one of the main import products that affect Cameroon’s continuously negative trade balance.

Despite the country adopting a strategy to reduce its massive rice imports, the National Institute of Statistics (INS) highlights a significant issue where rice, imported for local consumption, is illicitly re-exported.

Cameroonian traders exploit this situation to fuel smuggling routes, particularly to Nigeria, where rice faces high tariffs to encourage domestic production.

Therefore, this move is part of the government’s proactive efforts to ensure a stable supply of this crucial food item amid the current global rice scarcity and rising import prices.

The government’s objective is to avert any potential rice shortage, especially given the suspension of rice exports by India, which accounts for over 40% of global cereal exports.

Additionally, this measure aims to counter deceptive practices by certain Cameroonian traders that could disrupt the local availability of rice in markets.

On December 5, Minister Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana announced discussions with the African representative of Amir Chand Jagdish Kumar Export Ltd, an Indian company specializing in the production, processing, and marketing of Indian rice.

The company proposed facilitating the shipment of 190,000 tons of non-basmati white rice, authorized by India for Cameroon, at competitive prices.

This significant delivery, equivalent to nearly four months of local consumption, is anticipated to secure market stability. However, official confirmation of the shipment’s arrival is pending.

Other neighboring countries, such as Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, also become recipients of rice re-exported by Cameroonian traders.

According to the National Institute for Statistics (INS), Cameroon imported 652,565 tons of rice for 162.5 billion FCFA (US$270M) in the first 10 months of 2022. Over the said period, rice accounted for 4.6% of overall imports.

In 2021, the country spent CFAF207.9 billion (US$346M) on rice imports, representing 5.4% of the overall value of its imports.

This occurs against the backdrop of Cameroon’s ongoing struggle to meet the national demand, which is estimated at 576,949 tons annually, while domestic production hovers around 150,000 tons.

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