Monday, November 14, 2016

Afghanistan taps IRRI expertise to strengthen its rice sector

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines, 9 November—Rice is the second most widely consumed crop, next to wheat, in Afghanistan. Low national productivity, however, means that the country has had to import rice from Pakistan and Kazakhstan to meet local demand. 

Representatives from the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL) have signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) that is expected to boost rice production in the landlocked country. The MOU involves the introduction of improved rice varieties, technical support, exchange of information on rice research-related concerns, and training and capacity building.

"We really want IRRI to be engaged in rice research work in Afghanistan," said Hamdullah Hamdard, MAIL General Director of Extension and Agriculture Development (right in photo).

Qudratullah Soofizada, MAIL Acting Director of Adaptive and Applied Research, emphasized the importance of developing rice varieties with better quality adapted to the country's different rice-growing zones. Currently, the ministry works with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to introduce new rice varieties in the country.

"Rice is very important to food security in Afghanistan," Mr. Soofizada explained. “Our rice farmers need seed of new varieties.”

Bruce Tolentino, IRRI Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships (left in photo), assured the Afghan partners of IRRI’s support for codeveloping a program with MAIL to enable the ministry to access more rice seed as needed.

Mr. Soofizada expressed interest in technical support from IRRI for characterizing traditional Afghan rice varieties. A MAIL survey has found that Afghanistan has more than 100 landraces of rice with potentially useful genetic traits for plant breeders.

Afghanistan is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

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