Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in-charge of Crops, has said current statistics indicated that the country was about 56 per cent self-sufficient in rice production.
Dr Alhassan, who made the remarks at a day’s National Rice Development Strategy (NRSD) validation workshop which has the objective of doubling rice production by 2018, stated that with this development government’s efforts at improving local rice industry were gradually being realized.
“We need to intensify our efforts to get 100 per cent; we have been there before in the 1970s, we should get there again,” he added.
The NRDS was formulated in 2009 and revised in 2015 by MOFA, in collaboration with the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD).
It has set out strategic intervention areas which when addressed, will lead to the government achieving her mission of increasing rice production by 20 per cent per annum, and attaining self-sufficiency by 2018.
The policy is also aimed at addressing the challenges of low agriculture production, by focusing on some of the bottlenecks along the rice value chain which hitherto has inhibited the growth of the rice industry.
Some thematic areas to be critically looked at include; seed system, fertilizer marketing and distribution system, harvesting access and maintenance system research and technology dissemination, community mobilization, farmer-based organization and credit management system, as well as monitoring and evaluation.
The Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in-charge of Crops explained that for effective and comprehensive implementation of the strategy and its proposed interventions, it had become crucial to revise the document to include emerging issues facing the sector, so it would be a living or organic document.
Since it was launched in 2010, he said, it had been one of the documents guiding rice development in Ghana, as many areas identified in the strategy document were being applied by some stakeholders in their operations.
They include NGOs (JAK Foundation) and public sector institutions, thereby giving some level of confidence that the document is useful and already receiving some level of attention, he said.
He explained that rice seed system, fertilizer marketing and distribution, post-harvest and marketing, irrigation and water control investments, equipment access and maintenance, research and technology dissemination, community mobilization, farmer-based organization, and credit management are the main strategic areas highlighted in the NRDS.
Interestingly, he said, a number of interventions had been designed, focused on the above areas which include; rice sector support project with emphasis on the development of water harvesting and regulatory structure supported by “AFD,” rice seed scaling project, supported by USAID, improvement and scaling up of the system of rice intensification in Ghana supported by World Bank/”WAAPP.”
Other interventions are; West Africa seed program supported USAID/West Africa, Enhanced Access to quality rice seed initiative supported by world bank/WAAPP, EDAIF sponsored rice project, preparation of the rice seed road map, supported by CARD, inland valley rice development project supported by AfDB and the Nerica Rice Dissemination project supported by AfDB.
In the interim, a rice seed road map is being finalized for approval.
Dr Alhassan, however, asserted that the interventions were not fully addressing the issues, and expressed the hope that other partners would provide technical and financial support to pipeline proposals that came out from other thematic areas in this strategy document.
Commenting, Mr Alhassan Imoro of the Crop Services Directorate, revealed that domestic production (milled rice) between 2009 and 2014 increased from 235,000MT to 417,000MT and total area cultivated, within the same period also increased from 162,000 to 224,000 hectares.
Imoro said rice consumption in Ghana had seen immense growth in the past six years, from about 542,000MT in 2009 to around 748,000MT in 2014.
According to him, Ghana relies on imported rice to meet its local consumption, spending an average of about 290million US dollars of its scarce foreign currency annually, adding that rice imports into Ghana over the past six years ranged from 384,000MT in 2009 to 414,000MT in 2014.
CARD Regional Consultant, Mr Michael Azebeokhal Nassamu, buttressed that the validation was necessary to make the document a government one that could be referred to and used, adding that after the validation CARD would ensure that a 15-member task force that had been set up, would market the concept.