The Minister for Food and Agriculture has announced a plan to make the country self-sufficient in rice production by 2022.
“Ghana currently imports about $1.5 billion worth of rice,” Dr Akoto Afriyie told the press Thursday on the back of plans to change the tide which contributes to the depreciation of the cedi.
“Now rice has become a staple food, therefore, the demand for rice has been rising very quickly. And we have had to rely more and more on exports. In 2007 we imported $151,000,000 into this country. By 2015 that figure had gone up ten times,” he noted
The plan to indigenise rice production follows a call by the special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel.
Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas has encouraged the country to adopt the System of Rice Intensification technology which has reportedly helped farmers in countries like Mali to improve their rice yields.
He said this last month when he paid a courtesy call on Agric Minister.
Their meeting centred on how West African nations, particularly Ghana could work to reduce their rice import wage bill. The Daily Guide reported.
According to the Ministry, the plan to make Ghana self-sufficient in rice production will include supplying farmers in selected districts across the country with improved seedlings.
Again, government will extend rice production from the Savanna regions to the forest parts of the country whose potential for rice production has been discounted.
“These regions have more than enough valleys; low lying areas, we can produce rice and feed the whole of West Africa, not just Ghana. We have that capacity but that resource has been lying down for hundreds of years,” he said.
He disclosed that government is in talks with Chinese investors to provide rice millers for the farmers in order to enhance productivity and achieve the target.
The minister also added that government “has entered into an agreement with Exim Bank for a $150 million facility for farm mechanisation. We have signed a contract about three weeks ago. We hope to receive it before the end of the year.”
The plan, however, is not to take rice importers out of business. The new scheme will rather provide greater business opportunities for them if they are minded to take advantage of the government’s agenda.
“It is an opportunity for them,” the Minister said of rice importers, “they have to switch. They are at the end of the value chain. They have to link up with the Association of Rice Farmers and so on and create business opportunities. They have to be smart,“ he admonished.