Ghana’s rice imports bill hits $500m

riceStakeholders in the rice sub-sector of the agricultural sector held their annual general meeting Firday January 23, 2009 and, not surprisingly, fired a petition to the new government.

Not only did their petition not surprise anybody; to Ghanaians who have been following the fortunes of this staple it had, indeed, been long expected.

Their shopping list has not changed since the last time they were seen waving it at the face of the Ministry of Agriculture. It ranges from irrigation facilities, through high interest rate on the loans they take from the banks and lack of milling facilities.

Most Ghanaians do not know, but they would not be surprised by news that local rice farmers produce only 30 per cent of the country’s requirement. The remaining two-thirds, worth 500 million dollars, are imported! The figure is alarming when it is juxtaposed against the situation in 1999-2000 when the rice import bill was 100 million dollars.

Eight years down the line, rice production (and processing) is still at an infant stage, in a country where it is a staple. The cost of production, for the farmer, is simply too high.

Against this background, the Times pauses to commend the untiring efforts of the Finatrade Group of Companies, best known by its popular brand, Ricemaster, one company which has for years now, pumped millions of cedis into rice production by pre-financing the farmers’ groups.

It has gone further, financing the education of dozens of Agriculture students in all the public universities in the country. Currently, an advertisement from the company is running in the national dailies through which it is whetting the appetite of Ghanaians for local rice.

Unfortunately, Finatrade’s vision is a solo effort: it is alone in this, for which reason, its best efforts still look like a drop in a big ocean, and therefore, not very much appreciated.

Meanwhile, rice production (and processing) continues to suffer. There are too many challenges that have been allowed to persist for too long, and for which the people do not seem to have an answer! There are no mills worth the name in the country. No wonder, locally produced rice is still full of stones.

It is instructive to find out for how long.

Source: The Ghanaian Times

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