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Japan targets joint local rice production

Mukudzei Chingwere-Herald Reporter

Almost all rice in Zimbabwe is imported, the one grain where local production is trivial, but that could be changing with new varieties as Japan will be sending experts to Zimbabwe for the joint local production of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA), Japanese Ambassador Yamanaka Shinichi said yesterday.

He was speaking after paying a courtesy call on Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga at his offices in Harare.

Nerica has been developed through crossing African rice species that are resistant to disease and drought and the Asian rice species with its high yield potential. Production of this type of rice has been successful in West Africa and according to the Africa Rice Centre it has lifted eight million people out of poverty and food insecurity.

The Japanese interest in doing business in Zimbabwe comes as Government is pulling all stops to guarantee national food security as well as to bolster agriculture’s contribution to the economy. Zimbabwe is now self-sufficient in the other grains: maize, wheat and the traditional grains, and farmers meet the local demand for barley. But rice has always been an exception.

The Japanese are also expanding cooperation in local infrastructure development and will be implementing the previously committed project to improve the road in Chirundu. 

Speaking after his meeting with Dr Chiwenga, Ambassador Shinichi said the Vice President was also keen on cooperation in information communication and technology as well as improved trade between the two countries.

“The Honourable Vice President mentioned the importance of economic cooperation in order to strengthen the relationship between Zimbabwe and Japan,” said Ambassador Shinichi. 

“Also, he mentioned some specific areas he is expecting cooperation from Japan such as infrastructure development, agriculture, ICT and also trade cooperation.

“So, I explained what we are preparing. In the area of infrastructure,  we are now preparing the road implementation project in the Chirundu area which is the extension of our past cooperation.

“Also, I explained the cooperation for rice production, which is the production of the Nerica, which is the special rice, the mixture of the Asian rice and the African rice and it could be very productive and strong for disease and drought.

“For Nerica, we are now going to cooperate, including dispatching Japanese experts here,” said Ambassador Shinichi. Already Japanese research workers have visited Zimbabwe and noted that the hybrid variety could be grown here.

The Japanese Government previously assisted in rebuilding the Makuti-Chirundu highway as it crosses the main escarpment.

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