Rice Production in Tanzania


General information 

  • GNI per capita at PPP$, 2011: 1,500
  • Internal renewable water resources, 2011: 84 km3/year
  • Incoming water flow, 2011: 12.27 km3/year
  • Main food crops, 2009: starchy roots, bananas, maize, milk, vegetables, rice, wheat, beans
  • Rice consumption, 2009: 20.1 kg milled rice per person per year

Production seasons





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

Tanzania is located in East Africa and has a total area of 945,090 km2, of which 11.3% (2009) is arable land and is contained within a land boundary of 3,861 km and a 1,424-km coastline. The climate varies from tropical along the coast to temperate in highlands. Natural hazards include drought and flooding on the central plateau in the rainy season. The country’s main geographic features are a coastal plain in the west, northern highlands along the border with Kenya, southern highlands near the Zambian border, and the semiarid central plains. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa at 5,859 m above sea level.

The estimated population in 2011 is about 46.2 million, with an estimated annual population growth rate of 2%. Life expectancy at birth is 53 years.

Agriculture accounts for more than a quarter of GDP and employs about 76% of the labor force. About 85% of exports are related to agriculture, providing about 22% of foreign exchange earnings.

Recent developments in the rice sector

Rice is grown in three major ecosystems, rainfed lowland, upland, and irrigated systems. The area under rice increased from about 0.39 million ha in 1995 to about 0.72 million ha in 2010. Production increased from about 0.62 million t in 1995 to about 1.33 million t of paddy rice in 2009 but dropped to 1.10 million t in 2010. Average paddy yields across ecosystems have varied widely over the last 20 years (between 1.25 and 2.40 t/ha) without a clear increasing or declining trend. Enhanced production gradually reduced the need for rice imports. The rice self-sufficiency ratio was about 91.8% in 2010. Caloric intake per day from rice increased from 6.9% in 1995 to 9.1% in 2009. Protein intake from rice over the same period increased from 5.2% to 7.0%. Fertilizers are mostly imported, except for rock phosphate that is mined in the country.

Under the CARD (Coalition for African Rice Development) initiative, Tanzania endorsed a national rice development strategy (NRDS) in 2009 that is fully in line with national policies and international commitments. The vision is to transform the existing subsistence-dominated rice subsector progressively into commercially and viable production systems. In implementing the NRDS, Tanzania will focus on eight strategic areas:

  1. Increasing availability of and access to agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and appropriate farm machinery)
  2. Introducing improved varieties and integrated crop management options to close yield gaps, especially in irrigated rice systems
  3. Reducing postharvest losses and enhancing marketing of rice
  4. Rehabilitation and development of new irrigation schemes and improving irrigation and water-harvesting technology
  5. Enhancing access to and maintenance of agricultural equipment
  6. Improving capacity for technology development, training, and dissemination systems
  7. Enhancing access to credit and agricultural finance
  8. Promotion of medium- and large-scale processing industry

Rice environments

The priority areas for rice production are the irrigated lowland, rainfed lowland, and upland ecosystems. In the irrigated lowlands, improved rice varieties such as IR64 and SARO5 are usually grown. Yields range from 2.5 to 4 t/ha, with great scope for further yield improvement through improved crop management and further intensification. Total potential area for irrigation development is 29.4 million ha, out of which 2.3 million ha are characterized as high potential areas, 4.8 million ha as medium potential, and 22.3 million ha as low potential. In the upland systems, landraces (Supa) are commonly grown. In these systems, NERICA varieties are being introduced. Yields currently range from 0.8 to 1.0 t/ha. In the rainfed lowlands, water is usually adequate. Soils are also relatively fertile as compared to upland soils. Varieties grown are mostly landraces. Yields range from 1.5 to 2.0 t/ha. Crop diversification and intensification have great potential in these rainfed lowland systems.

Production constraints

Farmers grow mainly local and traditional varieties, many of which have low yield potential. Most of the rice grown depends on rainfall and many irrigation schemes need urgent rehabilitation. Upland systems are prone to drought, weed infestation (including Striga), and attacks by pests and diseases (blast). Rainfed lowland systems suffer from floods during heavy rains but can also face drought. Weed infestation, pests (African rice gall midge and stem borers), and diseases (rice yellow mottle virus, blast, bacterial leaf blight) cause low yields. Soil fertility is generally low. Rice competes with other crops such as maize, for land and labor. Inadequate postharvest technologies result in low-quality rice and low prices in the market. Farm operations are mostly (95%) done manually. Farmers and processors do not have easy access to credit. The infrastructure for transportation, storage, and processing is often lacking or in need of rehabilitation. 

Production opportunities

Tanzania has large land resources suitable for rice (29 million ha) and abundant water resources (underground, rivers, and lakes) for irrigation. There is also clear political will of the government to enhance rice production and productivity. There is currently a suitable policy environment, with tax exemption measures on the import of agricultural machinery and subsidies provided to farmers on agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and seed. The government is providing an enabling environment for the private sector to participate more strongly in agricultural production, processing, and marketing. The general objective is to double rice production by 2018 vis-à-vis 2008, which would be achieved through the following specific interventions:

  1. Improving rice production through better farmer access to improved varieties and improved crop management practices and postharvest technologies
  2. Introducing and adopting small-scale labor-saving technologies to improve the timeliness and efficiency of farm operations
  3. Strengthening seed systems for delivery of improved varieties to farmers and other end-users (public and private)
  4. Strengthening the capacity of public and private institutions responsible for research, extension, and training in rice technology development and dissemination
  5. Enhancing agro-processing and value addition
  6. Strengthening collaboration and linkages among national, regional, and international institutions involved in rice research and development.

Sources: Tanzania Rice Statistics survey, 2009; *2002 data; FAO’s FAOSTAT database online and AQUASTAT database online, as of September 2012.

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