African Agricultural Technology Foundation signs license agreement with Japan Tobacco for use of transformation technology in rice project

NAIROBI, KENYA: 24 May 2012 – The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) based in Nairobi has signed a license agreement with Japan Tobacco (JT) of Japan for the use of JT’s transformation technology to develop new rice varieties for use by smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), in countries such as Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda. The initiative, known as the Nitrogen Use Efficient Water Use Efficient and Salt Tolerant (NEWEST) Rice Project, seeks to address some of the major constraints that face rice production in SSA. The goal of the project is to develop and disseminate farmer preferred and locally adapted rice varieties with enhanced nitrogen-use efficiency, water-use efficiency and salt tolerance. JT will offer the technology free of charge to the AATF with an aim of supporting humanitarian aid projects. “The slow growth in domestic rice production has been attributed to low yields being achieved by rice farmers in SSA,” said Dr Denis Kyetere, the Executive Director of AATF. “Several factors are responsible for the low rice production. However, nitrogen deficiency and drought have been cited as leading constraints to upland rice production, while high salinity is increasingly becoming a major problem in many rice growing areas of Africa,” he continued. Rice is an important staple food and a commodity of strategic significance across much of Africa. Driven by changing food preferences in the urban and rural areas and compounded by high population growth rates and rapid urbanisation, rice consumption in SSA has been growing by 6 percent per annum over the years, more than double the rate of population growth. However, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the area under rice production in SSA has stagnated at about 8 million hectares, producing about 14.5 million tonnes per year against an annual consumption of 21 million tonnes. These production and consumption trends imply a production deficit of about 6.5 million tonnes per year valued at US$ 1.7 billion that is imported annually. Insufficient rice production affects the wellbeing of over 20 million smallholder farmers in SSA who depend on rice as their main food. “The license will enable the project to utilise our plant transformation technology for monocot species, PureIntro®, developing and deploying the nitrogen efficient, water efficient, and salt tolerant rice products, free of royalties,” said Mr Masamichi Terabatake, JT’s Chief Strategy Officer.

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