The nation’s value of rice imports reached US$1.2billion in 2015, an 800 percent increase from US$152million in 2007, the Minister of Agriculture Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto has said.
“I have been able to assemble data which clearly confirm that over the past ten years the volume and value of food imports have gone beyond alarming proportions.
“An examination of the individual items reveals even more disturbing trends. The value of rice imports has escalated eight-fold – from US$152million in 2007 to a peak of US$1.2billion in both 2014 and 2015.
“In the same period, the volume of rice imports climbed from 441,000 metric tonnes to 630,000 metric tonnes,” he said at the 4th National Rice Festival held in Accra.
Dr. Owusu Afriyie described the development as worrying, saying it not only puts pressure on the nation’s trade balance but has also made the economy vulnerable to global price increases and supply shortages in the rice market.
A report by the Oxford Business group indicates, though, that domestic rice production has increased by 12 percent over the 2010-15 period – although consumption has increased by double that rate over the same timeframe.
The report adds that Ghana imports between US$300million and US$500million of rice annually.
This, Dr. Owusu Afriyie said, is not good for the country; and said further that plans are currently being rolled out by government to address the situation.
Some of the programmes, he said, include provision of imported seeds, supply of fertilisers, provision of dedicated extension services, marketing strategy and the infusion of electronic platforms in the undertaking of all activities involving food and agriculture.
He also added that the Korean government, after conducting a study on rice production in Ghana, has offered the nation US$9million to begin extensive rice production in the Central Region.
Again, he said, the ministry is facilitating revision of the National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS) to reflect government’s vision for the rice sector and serve as a guide for all projects and interventions in the rice sector.
The rice festival
Speaking on the theme ‘Ghana rice for food, Ghana rice for jobs’, President of the Ghana Rice Inter-Professional Body (GRIB) Mr. Imoro Amoro urged consumers to patronise locally produced rice as it has advanced from its once-poor state to match international standards.
He also urged government to lead the consumption of local rice by ensuring that all public institutions such as government institutions and agencies, schools, hospitals, among others, patronise it.
“We are appealing for government to use its purchasing power to procure Ghana rice for all schools, and other government agencies should ensure that Ghana rice is the first choice for all rice procurement for the country. This will pave the way for other private companies and individuals to follow the steps of government,” he said.
The two-day festival brought together stakeholders of the rice sector: including rice farmers, processors, sack-designers, tools and equipment manufacturers, among others.