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Rice production in Africa has tended to be low-yielding, geographically dispersed, and uncompetitive against low-cost Asian imports, even when protected by high freight costs and substantial trade barriers. Skyrocketing prices in world markets in 2007–08 were a shock to African consumers, producers, and governments alike.

When international rice prices were relatively low, rice imports did not pose economic or political problems for West African governments. Extremely expensive imports reverse that equation.

This paper addresses the response to that reversal first by presenting a historical review of trends in the West African rice sector and, second, by assessing the effect of world rice prices on domestic prices, primarily at the consumer level.

This paper has appeared as a chapter in The Rice Crisis—Markets, Policies and Food Security (FAO and Earthscan, 2010).

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