President of the Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, Sampson Asaki Awingobit is warning that government’s plan of banning the importation of rice could cause more harm than good in the short to medium term.
He said, the solution to boost production and consumption of local rice lies in holistic support to local farmers in terms of cultivation and marketing of the produce.
Making his claims on Eyewitness News, Mr. Awingobit expressed fears that the country risk facing severe food insecurity if government overlooks the needed logistical and production assistance.
He advised government to critically examine the entire rice value chain before it goes ahead with its intended import ban.
“It is not feasible in the sense that, we don’t want a situation where government will create food insecurity in this country. With what they are bringing, if there is no demand, there will be no supply. If we say that in 2022, we will ban entirely, can we can sustain what we are currently producing let alone looking for surplus for export? So we should not just rush and say, we are banning. The fears I am having is that, the government just can’t be making pronouncements. Government should be interested in the produce on the farm lands from cultivation to harvesting to packaging to marketing. Government should look at the supply chain and support the farmer adequately. At the end of the day, if they ban and the importers go to buy it, it will even cost more than the one that is brought from outside.”
Government has announced that, it plans to ban the importation of rice by 2022 to boost local rice production.
Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Kennedy Osei Nyarko who gave the hint said, the move is to reverse the significant amount of the foreign rice consumed by Ghanaians.
But Mr. Awingobit maintained that, although the ban on the importation may be helpful to the country in the near future, measures should adequately be put in place to ground its implementation in the long run.
“Government cannot use a short or medium term to solve this issue in the country looking at the amount of money that we are spending to bring rice in this country. The country can be looking at a long term solution. But from now, giving ourselves 2022 is not a solution if government bans the importation.”
The struggles of rice farmers have been relayed by Citi News reports and a subsequent campaign started by Citi FM’s CEO, Samuel Attah-Mensah, urging Ghanaians to consume locally grown rice.
The struggles of rice farmers and millers have left huge quantities of rice at the risk of going waste at the Fumbisi and Gbedembilisi rice valleys in the Builsa South District of the Upper East Region.
As part of more immediate measures to tackle the problem, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has been meeting with 20 major rice importers to solicit commitments to support rice production in the country.
In line with this, the Ghana National Buffer Stock Company also said it will make its licensed buying companies to purchase all rice produce going bad.
10 rice millers agree to purchase locally grown rice
Meanwhile, ten major rice millers have agreed to buy locally grown rice for processing at 60 percent capacity which translates to 300,000 metric tonnes annually, representing over 23 million bags of home-grown rice.
This emerged at a meeting spearheaded by Ghana’s lead campaigner for local rice consumption, Samuel Attah-Mensah with the John Agyekum Kufuor (JAK) Foundation and some 15 local rice millers.
Speaking to Citi News, the Head of Policy at the JAK Foundation, Nana Ama Oppong Dua, said the next phase of the discussions is a meeting with financial institutions to support this course.
“What we realized is that for the 300,000 metric tonnes that can be done by these 10 [millers] we need just about 125,000 hectares of land to be able to do that. From the statistics we have from the Ministry, we have 300,000 hectares of land under cultivation. So it means that even what we’ve planted is much more than the capacity of these 10 mills here.”
“So we are hoping that the other mills will even come on board to be able to do that. What we have also done is that we’ve even used very conservative estimates. What we are using for this 300,000 metric tonnes is 60 percent capacity of production so if we scale up to 100%, then we will be able to produce much more,” she noted.