To reduce the country’s GH1.2 billion annual rice import, government needs to help farmers access credit at more generous rates than the market, the Ghana Rice Inter-Professional Body (GRIB) has said.
It said because domestic producers are saddled with high lending rates at an average of 32 percent, they are unable to scale-up production to meet domestic consumption, which Ghanaian farmers command only 40 percent of.
“We want to meet 60 percent of local demand in the next few years,” said Nana Kwabena Agyei Aryeh II, President of GRIB. “In the future we want to take over by producing more, that is our goal; but we need to start to looking at the factors that have led us to where we are today.”
According to him, farmers on their own will not be able increase production; hence, it is important for government to fast-track steps aimed at helping rice producers access loans at reasonable rates. He said: “This will help us to increase production substantially”.
“We know government has a lot of influence, that is why we want it to work with the financial institutions and see how they can support us by way of concessionary loans.
“We have some of the best farmers in the world, but we are at this level because we do not have the necessary support, or the support being given us is not good enough. If we can get the necessary support like what Nigeria is doing, like what Thailand has done, we will be able to be self-sufficient in rice production very soon,” he indicated.
Mr. Agyei Aryeh II, who spoke to the B&FT on the sidelines of the 5th Ghana National Rice Festival in Accra, also called on stakeholders to make agriculture insurance easily accessible to farmers.
Ghana spends about GH¢1.2billion on importation of rice, with the figure expected to increase over the coming years.
The grain is currently a staple food in the country, but domestics farmers – who are predominantly smallholder producers dotted across the country – are faced with lack of access to capital for expanding and mechanising their operations.
However, Mr. Agyei Aryeh II is optimistic that with the needed support, farmers will be able reduce the country’s huge rice import bill.
He added that in order to facilitate large-scale production, government should identify virgin lands, provide irrigation infrastructure and designate them for rice-farming alone. This, he noted, will help ensure that rice is grown throughout the year – unlike the current situation wherein farmers depend primarily on rain.
Mr. Agyei Aryeh II’s comments come on the back of a recent announcement by the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, that government is positioning the country to become self-sufficient in rice production within the next three years.
According to the Agric Minister, about US$3billion has been spent in the last three years to import rice into the country. This huge revenue, the minister lamented, goes to strengthen other economies.