Ban on rice imports a bad move

Government’s intention of reducing the size of rice of rice imports by placing an outright ban on the commodity is a premature move that will force a huge shortfall that will be difficult for local rice producers to meet the Managing Director of the Ghana Grains Council (GGC) has said.

The country's current rice consumption is about 1.8 million tonnes, with local rice production just below 600,000 tonnes.

Managing Director of the GGC, Godwin Ansah, speaking to the B&FT on the sidelines of a workshop to build the capacity of stakeholders within the rice production value chain, said apart from the low production levels local rice producers are grappling with issues surrounding the quality of their produce.

“Once we are able to meet that standard government is looking for and produce the quantity government is looking for, then it makes it conducive for the directive [ban| to come up. The industry needs a lot of capacity to be able to come up to that level.

“But at the moment we are not there, and should a directive be enforced there will be a huge gap; and so what we | Ghana Grains Company] are trying to do is to be able to bridge this gap as soon as possible,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture is expecting rice production to hit about 630,000 tonnes by year-end.

Rice is one of Ghana's major items on its import bill, with a market size estimated to be over US$l billion. Reducing the size of rice imports has become a priority for government, which sees it as a way of easing pressure on the foreign exchange reserves.

After years of toying with the idea of a ban on rice imports, Ghana last October announced a ban of rice import through the Ghana- Cote d'Ivoire border, a move seen as the precursor to an outright embargo on the commodity in the near-future.

Mr. Ansah concedes that though an outright ban will be welcome news in the long-run, the country's local rice producers will need to increase their capacity in terms of quality and quantity when such a move is eventually enforced.

Ghana Grains Council is a private sector-led initiative by leaders in the grain business, established with the aim of intervening in the grains value chain to achieve improvement in productivity, quality and greater commercialisation of the industry.

Last Wednesday's workshop was held between GGC in collaboration with PTB – the National Metrology Institute of Germany, as well as the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) to identify quality infrastructure gaps within the rice value chain and plan joint actions for improvement. .

According to Mr. Ansah, the stakeholders' workshop was organised in order to come up with actionable targets that help improve on the output of local rice producers.

The workshop was attended by representatives of each link of the value chain, including farmers, traders, processors and buyers.