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The journey towards food sufficiency -Can increased local rice do the trick?

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi
Category:
Experts say domestic rice production can promote food security
Experts say domestic rice production can promote food security

The determination by the government to halt the importation of rice and to become self-sufficient in its production seems to be gaining momentum, judging from the numerous initiatives that are ongoing.

Indeed, rice has been identified in the Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP), as an important food crop that should be given special attention for food self-sufficiency.

Some initiatives
AGRA is funding a project at a cost of €2.1 million, known as the Private Public Partnership for Competitive and Inclusive Rice Value Chain Development in Ghana.   

It is a three-year project that seeks to build the capacity of the farmers, looking at the constraints along the value chain such as access to extension services, finance and mechanisation.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) last year entered into a €2.5 million Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement to boost rice production in the country.

The commercial rice project, dubbed: ‘Ghana Rice Initiative’, is being funded by the government of Germany, and the project is a collaboration between MOFA, the John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation (JAKF), Swiss-based Intervalle, Ghana Rice Inter-Professional Body (GRIB) and the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

It is a €10 million project under the Partnership for Inclusive Agriculture Transformation for Africa, which is also being implemented in Burkina Faso with AGRA providing the technical support.

A total of 200,000 farmers from five regions namely; Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Volta, Central and Northern, have been targeted under the three-year project.

There is also the Rice Sector Support Project (RSSP) implemented by MOFA, in collaboration with Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) of France.

The project will support lowland rice production of up to 6,000 hectares in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West regions and northern parts of the Volta Region of Ghana.

The overall objective of the project is to improve the livelihood of poor farmers in the targeted regions through the development of a sustainable economic activity based on the natural potential of the region.

AGRA on why rice?
The Interim Country Manager of AGRA Ghana, Mr Bashiru Musah, speaking at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on rice, between AGRA, the Ghana Commodity Exchange (GCX), GRIB and JAKF, he said AGRA was working with relevant stakeholders to put together a plan for rice farmers, taking into consideration that there were other commodities.

“We are not ignoring other product value chains. Rice is a political crop looking at the number of factors militating against its development and the huge import bill.

“Ghana more or less is a bit self-sufficient in maize at a higher level than rice. Meanwhile, we have a high consumption rate so there is a bit of focus on rice now because our taste and preferences are changing,” he said.

Rice MoU
The three parties, the GCX, JAKF and GRIB signed the MoU aimed at transforming rice production in the country.

Consequently, they have commenced feasibility studies and market surveys in the local rice industry to ensure that there is a comprehensive data on how to support the industry.

Sector minister
The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, in April this year, said Ghana would no longer import rice in the next three to four years.

He said currently, it cost the country about US$1.5 billion to import rice annually, therefore government was determined to stop it.

“We have targeted areas in the traditional areas in the savanna and the forest areas of the six regions in the southern part of the country where there is huge potential for ice production, but which remain unexploited,” he said.

Quality control 
The President of the GRIB, Nana Adjei Ayeh, said rice production was very intensive such that farmers often complain about mechanisation service, access to market and access to input.

He expressed the hope that the MoU would address challenges associated with rice production.

“The MoU is going to address some of these things in the short and long term. It’s a very good thing we have been looking for, led by the private sector,” he said.

On quality and standards, he said for the past 10 years the quality of Ghana rice has improved.

“It has gone through a lot of changes. As we speak, GRIB, the Ghana Standards Authority and Food and Drugs Authority are working together to make sure that our Ghana rice that goes through the mills are well done,” he added.