Rice farmers have called on government to enjoin state-sponsored institutions to buy local rice in order to boost rice production, while reducing the importation of same into the country.
“Government should force local institutions like the School Feeding Programmes Secretariat, military, police and prison service to give preference first to the local rice, rather than purchasing the imported rice,” Akshay Sharma, Chairman of Shinkaafa Buni, a rice farmer group told the BFT in an interview.
The country imports about 56 percent of its rice requirement from mainly Asia. Only 34 percent of rice consumed in the country is produced locally, resulting in the importation of 680,000 tonnes annually. This costs the country between US$300 to US$500 million every year.
Even though the country’s domestic production has increased by 12 percent between 2010-15, domestic consumption increased by double that rate, over the same period.
The challenges with rice production has not been the absence of suitable land for the cultivation of the crop, but other debilitating factors such as high cost of credit, unbridled imports, and lack of improved rice varieties among others.
However, finance institution have started moves to commit more funds to the agric sector, particularly in the cultivation of rice, given the huge potential of the sector and following the downward trend of 91 and 182 Treasury Bill rates respectively.
Last week, Dalex Finance announced a GH?5million credit facility for over 10,000 rice farmers in the northern part of the country.
The fund is expected to be used to provide farming inputs such as fertilizer, improved seeds, and combined harvesters, to ensure prompt and efficient harvesting of rice.
Earlier this year, government announced its flagship Planting for Food and Jobs Programme aimed at reviving the agricultural sector with the objective of making the country food secured.
Under this policy, the government will provide agricultural inputs at subsidized prices to farmers, and support them with timely, high-quality extension services. The focus is on five major crops for the first year: maize, rice, sorghum, soya bean and vegetables (tomato, onion and chilli pepper).
The yields of these crops are expected to increase by between 5 and 20 percent, raising concerns about the likelihood of a glut in the system, especially when the country loses about GHc400 million every year as a result of post-harvest losses.
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