An analysis by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) shows that average rice yield in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) jumped by about 30 percent from 2007 to 2012, and that it is increasing at a faster rate than the global average.

The analysis by AfricaRice revealed that the paddy rice production growth rate in SSA shot up from 3.2 percent per year before the rice crisis (2000–2007) to 8.4 percent per year after the rice crisis (2007–2012).

High rice prices in late 2007 and 2008 sparked food riots in several African cities. As a result of this “rice crisis,” African governments, assisted by the international donor community, embarked on ambitious programs to boost their rice production capacity.

AfricaRice Director General Papa Seck, Ph.D., said the production numbers are very encouraging. “The surge in SSA’s rice production and yield is a result of key investments made by farmers, governments, the private sector, the research community and donors to develop Africa’s rice sector.”

Seck underlined that it is crucial to maintain this trend, because rice consumption continues to increase in SSA at an annual rate of 5 percent.

The analysis revealed that average rice yield in SSA increased by about 11 kg per hectare per year from 1961 to 2007 and by a spectacular 108 kg per hectare per year from 2007 to 2012, despite drought and floods in several African countries in 2011 and 2012.

AfricaRice Deputy Director General Marco Wopereis, Ph.D., explained that such growth rates are comparable with cereal yield growth rates after World War II in the United Kingdom and the U.S. Rice yield worldwide—driven by the Green Revolution in Asia—increased by 52 kg per ha per year over the period 1960–2010.

“Currently, 71 percent of the increase in paddy rice production in SSA can be explained by yield increase and 29 percent by area expansion, whereas before the rice crisis, only 24 percent of production increase could be attributed to increases in yield and 76 percent to increases in harvested area,” Wopereis added. “This is evidence of increased use of technological innovation, such as improved varieties and improved crop management in general.”