We should be self-sufficient in rice production in 3 years – Agric Minister

Agric Minister, Dr. Afriyie Akoto, 3rd from right, being briefed during his visit to Akate Farms, in the Ashanti Region

The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has said government is positioning the country to become self-sufficient in rice production in three years, to stop the loss of billions of cedis in import bills.

According to the Agric Minister, about US$3 billion has been spent, in the last three years, to import rice into the country.

This huge revenue, which goes to ‘strengthen’ other economies, he said, “is a wasteful use of resources,” and could be channeled to other critical sectors while supporting local farmers to produce for consumption and export.

To this end, the Minister, who was touring parts of the Ashanti Region as part of his nationwide inspection of projects under the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ (PFJ) initiative, said areas identified in the Ashanti and Central regions to be fertile for rice production will be brought under the PFJ, to boost local rice production.

He noted that the National Buffer Stock Company will be on hand to purchase the rice from the farmers.

This will be in addition to the rice produced from other fields in the northern regions. “We are confident that within three years Ghana should be self-sufficient in rice production,” he stated.

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Dr. Afriyie Akoto said given the inadequacy of storage facilities in the country, the government moved to construct over 80 warehouses across the country, expected to be fully functional in 2019.

This will cater for excesses during bumper seasons, and released during lean seasons, thus reducing post-harvest losses.

He added that the Ahafo-Ano North District of the Ashanti Region, which is one of the beneficiary districts of the project, might be considered for an additional warehousing, given the large volumes of produce from the area.

The Agric Minister said the government intends to invest massively in machinery and other equipment for rice production, while also creating employment for the youth.

During a courtesy call on the Tepamanhene, Nana Adusei Atwenewa Ampem, at Tepa,

Whilst en route to inspect some rice projects in the Ahafo Ano North District, the minister paid a courtesy call on the the Tepamanhene, Nana Adusei Atwenewa Ampem who, among other things, urged the minister to help expedite the release of chemicals to cocoa farmers.

The Tepamanhene noted that delays in the release of chemicals disrupts the cocoa farming activities as well as the yields of farmers.

At Akate Farms, one of the largest producers of poultry products in the country, the General Manager of Akate Farms, Dr. Abdul-Salam Akate said the pountry sector needed serious attention from government under the PFJ.

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He said the availability of corn and soya, which forms 80 percent of the poultry feed, among other support schemes, could be the game changer for the local poultry industry.

Currently, close to US$300 million is spent annually on the importation of poultry products into the country. A situation that continues to worsen the plight of the local poultry industry.

Dr. Afriyie Akoto mentioned that solving the feed challenge is critical to reviving the poultry industry, hence the decision to prioritise maize and soya in the PFJ.

He said meeting this need of poultry farmers will make them competitive and capable of exporting to other markets.

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