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Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Rice hybrid raises African hopes
Women pounding rice
African farmers helped develop the new breed of rice
By Corinne Podger

Researchers in West Africa have developed a new strain of rice which could improve the continent's food security prospects.

Ears of Nerica rice
Nerica will reduce the need for rice imports
The rice is called 'Nerica' - short for 'New Rice for Africa' - and it produces better yields than local strains, according to the researchers.

Nerica rice is a hybrid of two rice strains - one from Africa, the other from Asia - and is the result of more than 10 years of research.

From its African parent, it has inherited the ability to resist weeds and grow quickly in harsh local conditions.

Countries involved
Ivory Coast
Guinea
Togo
Benin
Nigeria
From its Asian side, the rice gives higher than average yields. The hybrid rice was developed by the West Africa Rice Development Association.

Boost to production

The scientist who led the research, Dr Monty Jones of Sierra Leone, says it could improve food security prospects across Africa.

Rice paddy
Nerica combines African and Asian strains of rice
Introducing the new strain will also reduce the amount of rice many African countries currently have to import due to low-yield crops.

But despite such optimism, Nerica has been slow to catch on.

Although the rice does not rely on fertilisers and insecticides, researchers say many farmers associate new strains of rice with having to buy expensive additives.

The researchers say they are now concentrating on growing more Nerica seed, in an attempt to make the rice more popular.

They say the new strain is being grown in Guinea and Ivory Coast and is due to be introduced on a large scale in Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.

State authorities in Uganda and Zimbabwe are also investigating the merits of the new strain.

See also:

21 Nov 00 | South Asia
20 Jul 99 | Science/Nature
26 Jan 01 | Science/Nature
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