The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) is seeking to increase the percentage of local rice consumption from a little above 50 percent recorded in 2019 to at least 70 percent by the end of this year.
Out of the 1.2 million metric tonnes of rice consumed by Ghanaians annually, 700,000 metric tonnes was produced by farmers locally in 2019; and the Chief Technical Director at the ministry, Asante Ankobea, believes the environment is right to increase that percentage to 70 percent and subsequently halt the importation of rice by end of 2022.
“We are increasing the quantity and quality of seeds to farmers on an annual basis, and out of the seeds we give we are able to estimate what production will be; and this is why we are very confident that in the next three years we should be able to produce enough to meet the country’s total demand,” he added.
Despite the increment in local production, the ministry noted that a major challenge to achieving the target of self-sufficiency in rice production is the lack of silos to improve rice storage capacity for farmers across the country.
“Most of Ghana’s local rice is produced in the northern part of the country, but the biggest challenge there is overdrying of paddy rice after harvesting due to lack of or little storage facility available. One critical element in our value chain at the moment that we want partners to take on is building the rice storage system for paddy rice,” Mr. Ankobea, told the B&FT in an interview.
He revealed that, currently, there is little storage facility for paddy rice, meanwhile the milling capacity for all the mills put together in Ghana stands at over 400,000 metric tonnes.
“So with this gap, the rest of the paddy, how do we handle it? If you leave it in the ordinary warehouses it dries and the quality drops. So, we really want investors who will invest in the value chain by putting up huge storage systems for paddy rice; so that the paddy produced can be stored and milled over time. That is when Ghana will be able to achieve its self-sufficiency in rice production,” he said.
In 2017 Ghana was only producing 30-35 percent of the country’s rice needs – but with the intervention of government’s Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme, production increased year to year.
To Mr. Ankobea, government cannot do it alone – thus it needs the support of all players to be able to go over this huge task to meet demands locally.
“If government wants to do anything meaningful to save this economy from using scarce foreign exchange to import rice, then we should be able to step-up our production capacity so that we meet what the people want. That is what the PFJ programme is striving to achieve, and will continue to strive for until we meet our target,” he said.
He also encouraged Ghanaians to continue patronising local rice due to its excellent quality, nutritional advantages, the ability to create jobs and generate income for farmers. “If people eat what we grow, that is when we will develop in a steady manner.”