September 20, 2012 / 12:42 PM / in 5 years

Niger says next grain harvest may yield surplus

NIAMEY, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Niger will likely see a recovery of its drought battered grain sector that will lead to a production surplus in the 2012/13 season, an agriculture ministry official said.

The west African nation, which lies in the arid Sahel band to the south of the Sahara, is still struggling to recover from food shortages caused by poor rains last year.

Rice production is now under threat as annual rains have caused flooding along the banks of the Niger River, raising its waters to their highest levels since the 1920s.

Speaking on state-owned radio, the agriculture ministry’s director of statistics Harouna Ibrahima said grain production was expected to rebound.

“All of the country’s eight regions have registered better results for millet, sorghum and maize than the previous harvest. We’re hoping for production comparable to 2010,” he said late on Wednesday.

Whereas Niger faced a grain deficit of around 500,000 tonnes this season, provoking a food crises that affected 6 million people, it produced a 1 million tonne surplus in 2010.

“We are hoping for these good results despite an abundance of rainfall in August which led to flooding, with regards to rice, of around 88 percent of irrigated land in the western regions adjacent to the Niger River,” he said.

The land-locked country normally produces about 130,000 tonnes of rice annually. Another 200,000-300,000 tonnes are imported to fill the gap in demand from it’s rapidly growing population.

About 18 million people across an arid strip of nations stretching from Senegal in the west to Chad in the east faced a food and nutrition crisis after last year’s poor rains, the latest in a cycle of shortages to strike the zone. (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by Joe Bavier, editing by William Hardy)

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