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Of the world's population of 7 billion, about half depend on rice. It is the fastest growing staple; per capita consumption increased by 40% between 1961 and 2002. Africa has been cultivating rice for 3,500 years. In sub-Saharan Africa rice ranks as number 7 in area harvested (behind maize, sorghum, millet, cassava, groundnuts and cow peas). Until the middle 1970’s it occupied about the same land area as wheat. Now wheat ranks 15th and rice area is about 2.5 times the wheat area. The largest grower of rice in sub-Saharan Africa (and 12th in the world) is Nigeria with 20% of total area, followed by Madagascar, Tanzania, Guinea and Mali. In terms of production, Madagascar produces about 25% of the sub-Saharan Africa total, followed by Nigeria, Mali and Guinea. Some countries produce enough rice to sustain national demand (Madagascar, Nigeria, Mali), whereas others import large amounts (Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa). High-yielding rice varieties are mostly grown in Asia, whereas in sub-Saharan Africa they are mainly grown in the Senegal River Valley.
Reference to numbers/statistics are from FAOSTAT 2010 for the year 2008