President Alassane Ouattara
Ivory Coast plans to invest 2 trillion CFA francs on farming through 2015 to improve crop yields for its world-leading cocoa sector and become a rice exporter within four years, a senior official of agriculture ministry said.
Once the motor for economic growth in West Africa, Ivory Coast has seen a decade of stagnation as a political crisis split the country between northern rebels and government loyalists in the south.
The impasse ended last year with a brief civil war, and the country is now in the midst of an economic turn-around under new President Alassane Ouattara, a former International Monetary Fund official.
The government announced plans in July to spend more than $20 billion on a post-war development programme aimed at boosting growth and reversing years of economic decline.
"Ivory Coast has mapped out its national agricultural investment programme, which will allow us to...relaunch agricultural growth," Nouhoun Coulibaly, director-general of project planning at the ministry, told Reuters in an interview.
"The amount we need to put in place all our priority investment programmes is 2 trillion CFA francs," he said, adding that the government had already secured 382 billion francs and would seek the rest from donors and private sector partners.
Planned projects aim to boost yields and quality for all farm products through distribution of improved seed strains, better storage conditions, and the rehabilitation of roads and irrigation infrastructure.
Ivory Coast's economy has long relied on agricultural exports for the vast majority of government revenues. The country is a major exporter of palm oil products and is Africa's leading producer of natural rubber.
Ivorian farmers grew a record 1.5 million tonnes of cocoa during the 2010/11 season, however analysts predict a long-term decline if nothing is done to counteract the effects on production of ageing trees.
Agricultural authorities are researching new cocoa strains capable of yields of two tonnes per hectare. Average Ivorian cocoa yields are currently around 400 kilogrammes per hectare.
Authorities will also aim to boost food production in an effort to lower costs for Ivorian households and have already introduced new rice varieties expected to help boost rice production to over 900,000 tonnes this year, Coulibaly said.
Ivory Coast was a rice exporter until the mid 1970s but has since become increasingly dependent upon foreign imports. While annual production has remained consistent at around 700,000 tonnes, consumption has grown to 1.5 million tonnes.
"We're hoping for 1.5 million tonnes next year, and from 2016 we want to be able to export surplus rice in the sub-region and later beyond the sub-region," Coulibaly said.