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The competitiveness of domestic rice production in East Africa: A domestic resource cost approach in Uganda
The rapid increase of rice imports in sub-Saharan Africa under the unstable situation in the world rice market during the 2000s has made it an important policy target for the countries in the region to increase self-sufficiency in rice in order to enhance food security. Whether domestic rice production can be competitive with imported rice is a serious question in East African countries that lie close, just across the Arabian Sea, to major rice exporting countries in South Asia. This study investigates the international competitiveness of domestic rice production in Uganda in terms of the domestic resource cost ratio. The results show that rainfed rice cultivation, which accounts for 95% of domestic rice production, does not have a comparative advantage with respect to rice imported from Pakistan, the largest supplier of imported rice to Uganda. However, the degree of non-competitiveness is not serious, and a high possibility exists for Uganda’s rainfed rice cultivation to become internationally competitive by improving yield levels by applying more modern inputs and enhancing labour productivity. Irrigated rice cultivation, though very limited in area, is competitive even under the present input-output structure when the cost of irrigation infrastructure is treated as a sunk cost. If the cost of installing irrigation infrastructure and its operation and maintenance is taken into account, the types of irrigation development that are economically feasible are not large-scale irrigation projects, but are small- and microscale projects for lowland rice cultivation and rain-water harvesting for upland rice cultivation.