The country’s self-sufficiency in rice production stands at about 30 per cent, leaving a short fall of 70 percent.
Addressing the opening session of the national workshop on rice and aquaculture productivity and market development in Accra on Monday, Mr Yaw Effah-Baafi, Minister of Food and Agriculture in Charge of Crops, said per capita consumption of rice had increased drastically, thus further affecting local demand.
He noted that rice in recent times had become a major food security crop and extremely an important Ghanaian dish.
In addition, Mr Effah-Baafi said the country’s aquaculture production had not reached one per cent of total local fish production, a situation that had necessitated huge fish imports to meet the shortfall.
The workshop was to enable experts in fish and rice production in Ghana and Asian countries to make meaningful contribution towards producing a national strategy on rice and fish production.
It was also to develop a National Rice Development Strategy and the Aquaculture Development Strategy.
Mr Effah-Baafi said government was committed towards alleviating poverty and ensuring food security by limiting the annual dissipation of foreign exchange earnings on rice and fish imports.
“We attach a greater sense of urgency to ensuring that domestic production levels of rice and fish are boosted. Government is committed to creating the necessary enabling environment to urge all stakeholders in the rice and fish sub-sectors to operate with confidence and assurance of increasing their incomes,” he said.
Mr Effah-Baafi expressed the hope that participants would brainstorm to address constraints bordering on input supplies, production, post harvest handling, processing, marketing and management of credit facilities for rice and fish productions.
“Proposals in the strategies should ensure judicious exploitation of all national resources available for their enhanced production adding “for rice, the potentials of all the agro-ecologies should be considered and the proposed action plans should detail how efficiently and sustainably resources would be managed.”
Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, Member of Parliament for Mion Constituency, expressed worry that local rice production, which he described was at its “rudimentary stage,” could not meet the high quality demand of Ghanaian consumers.
Dr Alhassan, who is also the Chairman for Parliamentary Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, noted that the challenge of meeting high demand on rice consumption needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Mr Musa Saihou Mbenga, Representative of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), noted that African Governments expressed interest in forming a coalition for rice production at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference in Japan in 2008.
He said the coalition named Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) has the objective of doubling rice production from a current production of 14 million tonnes to 28 million in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2018. CARD also aimed at accelerating aquaculture development in Africa to improve economic development.
Mr Mbenga expressed FAO’s commitment with other stakeholders such as the Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) to promote synergy and efficiency in promoting efforts by national governments and developments partners for intensification of rice and aquaculture production.
Mr Hisanobu Mochizuki, Head of Mission at the Japanese Embassy, expressed the hope that development of the national strategies for both rice and fish production would be a crucial step for food security in Ghana.
Mr Koichi Kito, a Senior Representative of JICA, said CARD established by JICA and Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, is a consultative group of donors, research institutions, African and international institutions with full respect for African initiatives.
He added that the Coalition facilitates resources and opportunities to match the needs of African rice producing countries.