The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) has alleged massive importation of rice through the inland borders of the country in spite of the government ban on the practice.
According to them, the alarming phenomenon was defeating the purpose for which the ban was imposed which included reduction in the importation of foreign rice in order to increase the production and consumption of local rice.
It was also expected to get accurate statistics of the cereal imported into the country, while ensuring that the right taxes were slapped on it to make the price competitive on the local market.
Speaking in separate interviews on the impact on the directive on the importation of rice through the inland borders on the local rice production and consumption, the Programme Co-ordinator of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), Ms Victoria Adongo and Mr Kweku Amoak, a rice farmer, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in Accra they claimed that “The ban on rice import has only remained on paper since it was announced years ago”.
“There is still massive importation of rice through the inland borders of the country,” Ms Adongo said.
She argued that if the government was genuinely serious about the directive, “it should have placed the ban of the rice through the port because it is there that huge tons of rice are imported into the country".
Ban on rice import
The Trade Ministry served notice to rice importers in October 2013, indicating that "with effect from 1st November, 2013, all imports of rice shall be done only through the Kotoka International Airport, Tema and Takoradi Ports".
According to the then Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, the ban was to check the rampant smuggling of the cereal and also enable the government to get reliable statistics on imports of rice.
Meanwhile, it is estimated that the government of Ghana imports between US$200 million and US$400 million worth of rice annually.
The amount is said to be one of the key contributors to the government heavy import bill which also has an effect on the strength of the cedi against the foreign currencies, particularly the United States dollar.
Due to the high demand for the cereal, particularly the perfumed brands, many business people have found rice importation as a lucrative venture and are importing from all sources around the world.
On another hand, the government has also found it an easy source to make some revenue through the charging of import duties.
According to the Food Security Ghana, among the major reasons for smuggling rice into the country has to do with the high import tariffs.
Quality of rice and local consumption
One of the main reasons Ghanaians prefer imported rice over the locally grown ones is because of quality and packaging.
The perception created in the minds of consumers was that the imported rice was well polished and perfumed as compared to the local ones, hence the high demand.
Ms Adongo, however, called on rice farmers and millers to ensure good processing practices such as grading, labelling, milling and good packaging that would help consumers to develop the appetite for local rice.
“Presently, the government has reduced subsidy on fertiliser from 50 per cent to 20 per cent at the same time the world price of fertiliser has gone up and this has tremendously affected the farmers in producing more to support the sector”, Mr Amoak noted.
He said one of the biggest problems affecting rice farmers in the country was access to credit because the Export Development Agriculture Investment Fund (EDAIF) had refused to support the sector.
Source: Daily Graphic
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