Ghana is the largest commercial market for US rice in West Africa. US producers maintain about a third of the Ghanaian rice market over the last several years, a US Embassy cable released by WikiLeaks August 26, 2011 says.
The Cable was primarily written to request an amount of $13,700 to bring down a biotechnology expert to Ghana
The summary says “biotech outreach funds for a U.S. biotechnology expert in agricultural production and development to visit Ghana for one week to engage with government officials and legislators, academics, public audiences, and the media on the merits of biotechnology and the importance of regulating biotech products.”
The cable then indicates that “U.S. food exports to Ghana, valued at $86 million in 2008, consist primarily of rice, poultry and consumer products. Ghana is the largest commercial market for U.S. rice in West Africa, with U.S. producers maintaining about a third of the Ghanaian rice market over the last several years.”
In 2009, local rice farmers produced only 30 per cent of the country’s requirement. The remaining two-thirds, worth $500 million, was imported.
Meanwhile, in 1999-2000 Ghana’s rice import bill was $100 million.
According to the cable Ghana has not yet adopted comprehensive legislation regulating the production and sale of biotech products. The Government of Ghana is currently considering a draft Biosafety Bill that was prepared with international technical assistance (including from USAID), but the draft legislation has not yet been submitted to the Parliament.
It says in May 2008, the Parliament did pass a Biosafety Legislative Instrument, which allows for field trials of biotech products, but not their commercialization. The Legislative Instrument thus allows for scientific advancement in Ghana while the executive and legislative branches of government continue to consider the merits of a comprehensive biosafety law.
The cable says public opinion on biotechnology is divided, with some editorials questioning the wisdom and safety of genetically engineered crops.
Other observers have argued that the higher crop yields and the greater resistance to pests associated with genetically modified seeds could help Ghana more effectively deal with issues of food security and the likely impact on farming from climate change, it observes.
The cable however reveals that “While public opinion remains divided, some biotech products are already being sold in Ghana. In addition, genetically modified cotton and other crops, which are grown in Burkina Faso (Ghana’s northern neighbor), may already be growing in Northern Ghana, or these seeds will soon migrate to and be grown in that region of the country. While current law allows for field trials of biotech crops, no experimental fields are currently under cultivation, as far as we are aware, though some U.S. companies have begun the processes of requesting permission to engage in such trials in country.”
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi