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Government pledges to halt rice imports

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi
Experts say domestic rice production can promote food security
Experts say domestic rice production can promote food security

The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has reiterated that Ghana will no longer import rice in the next three to four years.
He said currently, it cost the country about US$1.5 billion to import rice annually and, therefore, the government was determined to stop importing rice to save the money and reduce the pressure on the local currency.

“We have targeted the traditional areas in the savanna and the forest areas of the six regions in the southern part of the country where there is huge potential for rice production, but which remain unexploited,” he stated during the maiden town hall meeting in Accra organised by the Economic Management Team (EMT) on Wednesday, April 03, 2019.

He stated that the government was totally committed to the agricultural sector, with an initial focus on support to smallholder farmers.

Agric inputs
Dr Akoto noted that out of the many Ghanaian farmers who were smallholder farmers, only about 10 per cent used major farming inputs such as improved seeds and fertiliser, which had led to lower productivity, hence the government’s decision to tackle the problems of smallholders who produced about 90 per cent of agric products. 

  “This is not just by rhetoric. Compared to previous years, we have for the first time distributed over 250,000mt of fertiliser to smallholders, against 150,000 being the highest previously. This year, we are targeting between 350,000 and 380,000mt of fertiliser distribution to these farmers,” he said.

Again, he said over 130,000mt of food crops such as cassava, rice, soya, yellow and white maize, plantain, cowpea and yam were exported to neighbouring countries last year.

Value addition
Dr Akoto said the challenge now was how to add value to the sectors.

As a measure, he said 80 warehouses would be constructed in food-producing areas throughout the country and they were expected to be ready by June / July this year. 

“We are adding to infrastructure, expanding distribution to farmers, we have established the commodity exchange and there is a draft bill going to Cabinet for the consideration of a multi-crop production improvement authority which will take care of six major tree crops to rake in more revenue in the next four to five years,” he stated.

He added that all these indicated that there was dispelling transformation in agriculture as a basis for the expected industrial revolution to happen to lift the citizenry out of poverty.

Diversifying the economy
In his presentation, the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, corroborated the need for a change in the structure of the economy through diversification and a focus on the production of raw materials to value addition.

That, he said, was a key pillar of the government’s Ghana Beyond Aid agenda.

“To accomplish this, the government is implementing programmes such as the one-district, one-factory policy which has taken off. About 79 factories under the scheme are at various stages of construction. Another 35 are going through credit appraisal. Already-established businesses are also receiving help, with an amount of GH¢230 million to be disbursed among 16 companies under the stimulus package,” he noted.

He added, “Changing the structure of our economy through diversification and value addition will not happen overnight. It remains a major pre-occupation of the government because it is our pathway to reduce dependency, expand the economy, create jobs, increase exports, reduce imports and support the value of our currency.”