CAMEROON – Cameroon plans to import 150,000 tons of rice in quarter three of 2023 (Q3) in a bid to guarantee supplies in the local market during the festive season, which is usually marked by high rice consumption.

Minister of Commerce Luc Magloire Atangana instructed operators to urgently import the said tonnage at a consultation meeting held in Yaoundé.

The instruction comes at a time when the government is promoting import-substitution, which consists of reducing massive imports by developing local production and processing.

According to the state, the import-substitution plan notably targets key sectors like agriculture, with 25% of the national territory being arable and fertile. 

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

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.

However, the country is on the course of promotion of activities and multi-faceted support aimed at intensifying the cultivation of irrigated and rainfed rice to boost local production and substantially reduce imports that currently dominate the market.

On May 16, 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture launched the implementation of a CFAF385 billion (US$ 635M) strategy to develop the rice sector to bring local rice production to 750,000 tons by 2030.

According to the ministry, the country intends to mobilize funds from development partners, the private sector, and the public investment budget of which 298 billion FCFA (US$ 491M) is earmarked for irrigated areas while 87 billion FCFA (US$143M) for other goods and services.

According to the executives, the volume is first expected to reach 450,000 tons by 2025, from the current 100,000 tons, and 750,000 tons by 2030 to bring the self-sufficiency rate down to 97%.

In detail, Gabriel Mbairobe, the Minister of Agriculture revealed that the government intends to develop 60,000 ha for irrigated rice, 200,000 ha for rainfed rice, and to produce 6,000 tons of certified seeds per year by 2030.

Re-exportation jitters

Despite the country adopting a strategy to reduce its massive rice imports, part of the rice imported in Cameroon usually feeds contraband networks that smuggle them into Nigeria, where the food product is overtaxed to encourage local production

According to Business in Cameron, in the aftermath of the hunger riots in March 2008, the Ministry of Agriculture announced the imminent implementation of a strategy to boost local production.

However, still, the country exempted rice imports from taxes from 2008 to 2015, a measure that could ensure supplies in the local market.

In 2016, rice import was subject to the 5% minimum tax which still gives Morocco an added advantage to import wheat over their neighbors.

As a result, rice is fraudulently re-exported to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea because of the attractive prices offered for rice in those markets. According to the INS, CFAF87 billion worth of rice was fraudulently re-exported from Cameroon to neighboring countries in 2019. 

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