The South Korean government is set to pursue a project of building a Korean rice belt in Africa, known as the K-Rice Belt, under which Korea’s rice farming experience will be shared with and rice varieties supplied to seven African countries.
By 2027, Korean rice varieties will be harvested in Africa that is more than three times the size of Yeouido, the financial district in Seoul. The K-Rice Belt is one of Yoon Suk Yeol administration’s main agricultural tasks aimed at offering official development assistance (ODA).
According to the government on Monday, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will sign memoranda of understanding (MOUs) in July on developing the K-Rice Belt with seven countries, including Senegal, Gambia, Guinea and Ghana of West Africa, Cameroon of Central Africa, and Uganda and Kenya of East Africa.
These seven countries mostly rely on imports of their staple rice due to insufficient local production. Once the MOUs are signed, Korea will be able to transfer its rice cultivation technologies and supply rice seeds to the countries. “The seven countries are highly interested in the K-Rice Belt project,” said an unnamed official from the agricultural ministry.
The ministry, in collaboration with the Rural Development Administration (RDA), plans to plant high-yielding rice in an area of 300 hectares in the seven countries and produce 2,040 tons of rice this year. Tongilbyeo, ISRIZ-6 and ISRIZ-7 are Korea’s high-yielding rice varieties with higher yield potential. ISRIZ-6 and 7 can produce 5-6 tons of rice per hectare every year, more than twice as high in productivity compared with African varieties with a yield of 1.5-3 tons per hectare.
The experiment in Guinea last year, in fact, attested to the much higher rice yield of Korea’s Tongilbyeo compared with local varieties. The yield per hectare of local varieties was a mere 0.8-1.5 tons while that of Tongilbyeo was 2.7 tons.
The goal of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Rural Development Administration is to produce and distribute 11,140 tons of rice in a total area of 986 hectares in 2027. The ministry sees that the annual production of high-yielding rice will be at least 10,000 tons after 2027, a level sufficient to feed 30 million people annually.
The ministry and the Korea Rural Community Corp. plan to secure suitable land for rice production in each country and build infrastructure such as irrigation, drainage facilities and tractor paths if necessary. Additionally, experts from the RDA will be sent to the countries to train local experts as seed supply alone is insufficient to guarantee success in rice production. The plan also includes building storage facilities for pesticides, fertilizers, agricultural machinery and seeds.