Rice Production in Senegal


General information  

  • GNI per capita at PPP$, 2011: 1,940
  • Internal renewable water resources, 2011:  25.8 km3/year
  • Incoming water flow, 2011: 13 km3/year
  • Main food consumed, 2009: rice, vegetables, milk, wheat, maize, millet, starchy roots, fish
  • Rice consumption, 2009: 71.5 kg milled rice per person per year

Production seasons





Write-up taken from the IRRI’s Rice Almanac (2013):

Senegal is located in West Africa, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, and has a total area of 192,530 km2, of which 20% is arable land, contained within a land boundary of 2,640 km, with 531 km of coastline. The climate is tropical–hot and humid; May to November witnesses a rainy season with strong southeast winds and December to April a dry season with harmattan winds (hot, dry, and dusty trade winds). Natural hazards include drought and seasonal flooding of lowlands. The terrain comprises generally low, rolling plains rising to foothills in the southeast. The estimated population in 2012 was 13 million, with an estimated annual growth rate of 2.7%. Life expectancy at birth is 60 years. Key export industries are phosphate mining, fertilizer production, and commercial fishing. The country’s national dish is rice with fish (thièbou-djène). Senegal is among the largest consumers of rice in West Africa and one of the largest importers of broken rice.

Recent developments in the rice sector

The area under rice increased from 69,000 ha in 1995 to about 147,200 ha in 2010. Production increased from 155,200 t in 1995 to about 604,000 t of paddy rice in 2010. Average paddy rice yields across ecosystems varied widely over the last 20 years (between 2.0 and 4.1 t /ha) without a clear increasing or declining trend. Imports had been at less than half a million t in 1995 and reached the million mark in 2007 but decreased in 2010 to 706,700 t. The rice self-sufficiency ratio was almost 25% during 2005-09.  Calorie intake per day from rice increased from 27.1% in 1995 to 28.5% in 2009. Protein intake from rice over the same period decreased from 27.1% to 23.1%. Fertilizers are mostly imported, except for phosphate that is mined in the country. 

Faced with an increasing population and growing urbanization, the government of Senegal gave priority to increased national agricultural production, and as part of the GOANA initiative (in English, Grand Agricultural Offensive on Food and Abundance). Senegal also developed a National Rice Development Strategy under the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD).

Rice environments

Rice production systems in Senegal are largely dominated by small and family-held farms. Irrigated rice farming occupied about 53,000 ha during the 2008 crop year (off-season and rainy season) split between the Senegal River Valley (50,000 ha) and the Anambe Basin (3,000 ha). Irrigated rice production represents 70% of national production. Rice yields vary between 4 and 6 t/ha on average. 

Double cropping is in principle possible in the Senegal River Valley but difficult because of the risk of cold stress in the wet season and heat stress in the dry season if sowing is delayed. It is hardly practiced because of difficulties with the timing of crop management interventions (late harvesting of the previous crop, late arrival of seed and other inputs). Harvest and postharvest operations remain major bottlenecks in irrigated systems in Senegal. 

Rainfed lowland or upland rice farming is found in the southern parts of the country. During the 2009 rainy season, rainfed rice growing occupied 72,000 ha, representing 30% of national production.

Production constraints

Irrigated rice farming faces a number of constraints such as land tenure problems, high development costs, and timely access to quality inputs, in particular seed and mineral fertilizer. Poor timing of crop management interventions because of the late arrival of inputs or delay in harvesting of the previous crop leads to important yield losses. Weed infestation, in particular in direct-seeded fields, and bird damage are major constraints. Late harvesting often leads to both substantial quantitative losses due to shattering and qualitative losses in the final rice product. Yields are generally between 4 and 6 t/ha. Yield potential is much higher, between 8 and 11 t/ha, depending on the growing season and the location along the Senegal River due to highly fertile soils and a generally favorable climate. 

Production, harvesting, and processing operations in rainfed systems are done manually and mostly by women. Farmers generally lack access to seed of improved varieties, such as NERICAs. Drought, weed infestation, and low soil fertility are major constraints in rainfed upland systems, with yields usually from 1 to 1.5 t/ha. In rainfed lowland systems, yields are usually clearly higher, up to 3 t/ha, because of more favorable soils and moisture conditions. In both rainfed upland and lowland systems, important yield gains can be obtained with the introduction of improved varieties with greater resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and the introduction of improved water management and water-harvesting techniques.

Production opportunities

The favorable climate for double cropping of rice, the progressive return of donors ready to invest more and more in rice growing, and the current state of play of the international rice market are in themselves great opportunities to be seized. The huge imports offer a clear opportunity for Senegalese farmers and rice value-chain actors as a whole. 

The main objective of the National Rice Development Sector was to lift national rice production to 1,000,000 t of milled rice by 2012. The contribution expected from irrigated rice cultivation to attain this objective is 800,000 t, with rainfed rice contributing 200,000 t. This will consist of homogeneous broken and whole rice fetching competitive prices compared with imported rice and giving a financial return for all the actors in the sector. To achieve these goals, there is a need for

  1. Development of the rice seed sector
  2. Rehabilitation of irrigation schemes in disuse and building of new schemes and achieving an average cropping intensity of at least 1.5 rice crops per year in these schemes
  3. Providing farmers with access to agricultural equipment for harvest and postharvest activities and rice processing plants
  4. Increased diffusion of integrated crop management options to reduce yield gaps in both irrigated and rainfed systems
  5. Better organization of marketing, and the creation of private professional agencies in charge of buying, processing, and selling milled rice
  6. Development of a coherent input subsidy policy
  7. Support for promoting by-products of rice for animal feed and energy production
  8. Improved access to agricultural credit
  9. Better intergovernmental coordination of campaigns against locust attacks

Sources: *Senegal Rice Statistics survey, 2009; **Grain Report of the USDA, 2010; FAO’s FAOSTAT database online and AQUASTAT database online, as of September

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