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Korea launches 'K-rice belt' initiative with 8 African nations

10 July 2023

Korea launched the "K-rice belt" initiative with eight African nations Monday to provide them with quality rice varieties and share its farming know-how, ensuring their sustainable food security, the agriculture ministry said.

As part of Seoul's official development assistance (ODA), the project calls for supplying high-yield rice varieties and agricultural machines, helping Africa build irrigation and other necessary facilities, and sharing experiences and technologies regarding crop cultivation and distribution.

For the implementation, Korea signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with eight African nations ― Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Ghana, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya and Guinea Bissau ― in Seoul earlier in the day, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

The initiative aims to harvest some 2,000 tons of rice varieties in Africa this year, with the figure rising to over 10,000 tons combined per year starting in 2027, a level enough to feed around 30 million people in the underdeveloped nations annually, it added.

In 2020, African nations consumed 301.16 million tons of rice but only produced 210.54 million tons amid the lack of necessary infrastructure and technologies and poor crop yields.

"We signed an MOU with the respective nation to better meet each nation's specific needs given unique circumstances and to achieve tangible results. This goes beyond simple food aid as we seek to let them know how to grow crops on their own," Minister Chung Hwang-keun said during a press briefing.

"This project will not only help resolve the food crisis in Africa but also develop their agriculture industry and the broader economy. It will also help achieve the world's sustainable development goals by protecting the African continent," he added.

Korea plans to earmark $80 million for the project by 2027, and it "can further expand the project as more African nations have voiced hope for participating in the project," according to the minister.

Gambia's Agriculture Minister Demba Sabally told reporters that Korean rice varieties are popular in his country and the project will play a positive role in boosting Africa's food security.

"The Korean rice is very receptive for Gambian farmers as it is very high-yielding and very aromatic," Sabally said. "Our expectation is very high. We want to use this opportunity to learn from the Korean experience and adopt applicable technologies.

"We still have a food security challenge because of the lack of infrastructure and technology. This project will be a game changer, as food insecurity will be gone and our dependence on imports will be minimized," he added.

Mamoudou Nagnalen Barry, the top agriculture official in Guinea, also said the pilot project with the Korean rice was "very satisfactory" as it is suitable to the nation's climate, voicing hope for greater rice production thanks to the initiative to make his country the second major rice producer in Africa after Nigeria and to export the crop to other nations.

Following the signing ceremony, the ministry held seminars on Korea's ODA programs and ways to conduct the K-rice belt project in a successful manner.

The visiting African ministers are also scheduled to visit rice processing plants, smart farms and farming equipment manufacturing facilities in Korea on Tuesday, the ministry said.

During a session of the Group of Seven summit held in Japan in May, President Yoon Suk Yeol vowed to enhance Korea's support for nations facing a food crisis through various ODA programs and to double the country's food aid to the World Food Program to 100,000 tons per year. (Yonhap)

Source: Korea Times