WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Rice production in Côte d’Ivoire is forecast to rise to 1.45 million tonnes in 2018-19, up from 1.377 million tonnes in 2017-18, according to an April 19 Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA said Côte d’Ivoire is pursuing policies that it hopes will drive domestic production of rice. Specifically, the country is looking to incorporate improved seeds and inputs into the process, as well as add better access to mechanization. In addition, the government of Côte d’Ivoire is said to be looking to increase area through the exploitation of flood zones in the country’s northwest region.

“In recent years a lack of funding, poor access to inputs, limited processor capacity, and low market prices have decreased farmer interest,” the USDA noted in the report, adding it doesn’t anticipate major upward shifts in area or yield in the immediate term.

Consumption of rice is forecast at 2.55 million tonnes in 2018-19, up from 2.5 million tonnes in 2017-18 and 2.45 million tonnes in 2016-17, the USDA said.

Higher incomes and a greater emphasis on convenience have led urban consumers to ramp up their consumption of rice, but rural consumers also are driving the gains, the agency noted.

“Much like their urban counterparts, those in rural areas are turning to rice vis-à-vis other local staples due to less time and effort to prepare, but also the availability of fuel (wood/charcoal), which is becoming increasingly scarce and costly,” the USDA said. “Consumers purchasing domestic rice prefer aromatic, long grain varieties, but price will be the primary deciding factor.”

The USDA noted that Côte d’Ivoire is making “significant investments” in formalizing its milling capacity. Over the next several years, the country plans to open up 30 mills with capacities of 5 tonnes per hour or more, the USDA said, which compares with only three such mills currently operating in the country.  Plans also call for the construction of several larger industrial mills that can process up to 20 tonnes per hour, the USDA said