AMSTERDAM (Commodity Online) : Royal Dutch Shell of the Netherlands and China's China National Petroleum Corp have announced a 30-year deal to jointly develop and produce natural gas in China's Sichuan basin.

The deal announced today by Shell, reveals close ties that the Anglo Dutch major has fostered with China's state-owned oil majors and comes close on the heels of Shell teaming up with PetroChina in sealing the acquisition for Australia's coal seam gas producer Arrow Energy yesterday for A$3.5 billion.

Under the 30-year production sharing agreement, which requires the approval of the Chinese government, Shell and CNPC, would evaluate and potentially develop tight gas reservoirs in an area of approximately 4,000-square-kilometre in the Jinqiu block of central Sichuan Province.

Tight gas is natural gas contained in rocks that must be fractured or broken open before it can flow easily to production wells.

Experts from across the world gathered on Monday for a week-long meeting focused on increasing Africa's rice production to reduce the continent's huge dependency on imports.

Some 300 experts were expected to participate in Africa Rice Congress 2010 in the Malian capital of Bamako.

How do you explain such a bleak situation with all the agricultural potential that Africa has and after 50 years of independence for numerous African countries? Malian Prime Minister Modibo Sidibe said at the opening of the congress.

West Africa imported nearly 40 percent of the rice it consumed in 2009, representing a third of all rice traded in world markets, according to research group AfricaRice, which organised the congress.

The 2008 food crisis, which saw prices soar, illustrated the problem with Africa's reliance on rice imports, the organisation said.