Dr Charles Nyaaba, Executive Director, Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), has called on the government to improve irrigation facilities to sustain all-year production of rice in the country.
He said there were lots of rice-growing areas with no irrigation schemes, and that these limited the production capacity in the country.
“Hence the need for the government to demonstrate commitment by providing adequate irrigation infrastructure to ensure that there is sustainable rice production all year-round,” he added.
The Executive Director made the call at a press briefing held in Accra, on the 2024 National Budget and Implications on the Legislative Instrument (LI) restricting the importation of some agricultural products.
Among the strategic products listed are rice, poultry, animal and vegetable oil, guts, bladders, stomachs of animals, fish, sugar, and canned tomatoes, among others.
Dr Nyaaba said over the past few years, rice farmers and members of the Association had bemoaned the unbridled and uncontrolled importation of rice, especially into the country, which disincentivised the local production of the crop.
“Within a space of 10 years, thus between 2010 and 2020, Ghana had a rice import bill of over USD 8 million and in 2022, Ghana spent over GH 6.8 billion cedis to import rice into the country,” he said.
The Executive Director said rice farmers and stakeholders in the country had collectively agreed that the country had no business importing the commodity and that once provided with the right support, infrastructure, and environment, Ghana should be self-sufficient in rice production.
He said according to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana as of 2022, was producing 685,000 metric tons of rice, which was against a national demand of 1,440,000 metric tons.
Dr Nyaaba said the Ministry estimated that Ghana should be producing about 1,324,000 metric tons of rice by 2023 and 1,701,000 metric tons by 2024, which was expected to surpass the national demand.
“We are of the view that it is based on these forecasts that the Ministry hopes to restrict rice imports since local production can meet local demand,” he added.
Dr Nyaaba said the cost of rice production continued to be high and unaffordable for the rice farmer, such that as of June 2023, the cost of production of an acre of rice cost a farmer not less than GH₵ 5,000, at the same time, 180kg of paddy rice was sold at GH₵700.
“With the low prices, farmers are still struggling to get guaranteed buyers. This development is demotivating for local rice production and will make it difficult to attract more farmers to produce to meet domestic demand,” he added.
He said though the Planting for Food and Job 2.0 focused on rice production, they expected to see radical and transformational support for rice farmers to reduce their cost of production, ensuring a guaranteed market, and granting credit with low interest to support milling and processing of local rice.
Dr Nyaaba said there must be adequate milling facilities across all rice-producing districts in the country, coupled with the development of rice marketing mechanisms to ensure that rice produced was strategically bought and stored by the State.
He said the government’s continued borrowing from the public was crowding out the private sector, leading to low private investment, such that the monetary policy-to-interest rate of 32 per cent with high interest on the T-bill continued to make private investment unattractive.
The Executive Director called on the government to put in measures that allowed private individuals to take loans with low interest to invest in mechanisation, milling facilities, and the production of rice.
He said according to the data from MOFA, Ghana had a baseline production of 15,000 metric tons as against a national demand of 324,000 metric tons in 2022 and the Ministry further projected an increase in poultry production to about 23,000 metric tons in 2023 and 43,000 metric tons in 2024.
Dr Nyaaba said the government should show the immediate, short, and long-term plans for improving production to meet national demand and ensure that Ghana was self-sufficient.
“With regard to other strategic commodities considered under the LI, we urge the government to undertake a case-by-case assessment of each of them and accurately design a respective strategic action plan for each,” the Executive Director added.