Possible role for ACCI in SA dryland rice initiative
The ACCI’s Prof Mark Laing and Dr Isack Mathew attended a high-level meeting in May to discuss the production of dryland rice in South Africa.
The Pretoria workshop, which included contributions from academic, private and government sectors, was organised by South Africa’s national Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Agricultural Research Centre (ARC).
“South Africa currently consumes more rice than it produces and demand is rising,” says Laing. “At the moment there are only two or three farmers in South Africa producing rice. ”
This presents opportunities including import substitution and job creation. Discussion at the workshop focused on the feasibility of developing a rice value chain in the country that would include a seed system, primary production, processing and marketing. Because South Africa is generally arid with limited water resources and thus cannot support paddy rice production, the feasibility assessment is focusing on dryland rice production.
“The ACCI is recognised as a role player because of its substantial experience in rice research,” says Laing. As a long-standing centre for crop improvement the centre is equipped to pioneer rice breeding in South Africa, and it offers expertise in a range of disciplines including plant pathology, plant breeding and genetics and agronomy.
“Dryland rice is an unknown crop in this country and little is known about it. The ACCI has the largest collection of germplasm in the country,“ he says.
Although the project is still at the exploratory stage, Laing says if it goes ahead there is a “real possibility” that the ACCI will play a key role — in collaboration with the ARC — in the areas of plant breeding and agronomy.