Rice farmers at the Fumbiisi rice valleys in the Upper East Region are still selling their produce at rock-bottom prices to market women for need of cash to settle debts incurred in the course of production.
They are presently selling three bags of rice for the price of two, each bag costing GH¢220.00.
Some of the farmers owe the operators of the combine harvesters, who charged between GH¢350 and GH¢400 per acre, whilst the farm hands charged GH¢30.00 per person, per day for their work.
According to the farmers, a directive from government for the mop up of the paddy rice packed at the valleys did not receive any attention and they did not know when it would begin.
Mr Samuel Abiayega, a rice farmer and a one- time 2016 best livestock farmer who spoke to the Ghana News Agency in an interview, said he cultivated 270 acres of rice and anticipated to harvest about 2000 bags, “Even though I am still harvesting, I am afraid of cattle invasion and wild fire as I have to keep all the harvest at the farm, in the open for lack of storage facilities and market”.
According to the former best farmer, the valleys were beginning to dry up and it was becoming difficult for the machines to continue harvesting and they now resorted to manual harvesting, which was more expensive.
He said farmers in 2018 had fertilizer subsidy “but this year we could not find some except to buy from the open market, which was sold at GH¢130 per bag and now we cannot sell our rice at good prices to get our money back”, Mr Abiayega stressed.
Mr Charles Nyaaba, the Project Officer of the Peasant farmers association reiterated that the challenges of harvesting and marketing rice were major issues over the years.
Making reference to the government’s 2018 budget statement, he said though farmers in Upper East Region were promised the services of combined harvesters, the machines were only received by a few individuals, thus making it difficult for the small holder farmers to afford.
On market issues, Mr Nyaaba noted that the expansion of rice production in the region was also partly due to the promises of the HAVNASH Company that bought much of the rice last year and gave the farmers hope that there would be improvement in the marketing system.
Unfortunately the buyer indicated that over 9,000 tonnes of paddy rice still remained in its storage facility without market so it could not buy more rice this year.
Mr Nyaaba also expressed disappointment that even though NAFCO was expected to buy the paddy rice, it had not showed up.