The demand for locally produced rice has increased lately, due to vigorous promotion of the production and sale of local rice by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and other stakeholders in the rice business.

The locally produced rice have been packaged in bags, just like the imported ones, with the inscription “Yen Mo”.

The Corporate Affairs Manager of the Finatrade Group Limited, Mr John Awuni, who made this known to the Daily Graphic said regrettably, the increased demand had not been met with a corresponding supply, as a result of some reasons.

These, he added, included non-production of local rice throughout the year, leading to low production, and inadequate access to credit facilities.

Mr Awuni said in spite of the collaboration between his company and some rice farmer groups and local rice processors, supply had still fallen short.

“For instance, in November 2007, we collaborated with the House of Rhema, a rice processor and distributor, to supply us with over GH¢ 1. 7 million worth of locally produced rice, but unfortunately till date, the company has not been able to meet the demand,” he noted.

Mr Awuni mentioned that the company had over the years also collaborated with some farmer groups in the northern regions to produce and sell rice to them.

The collaboration, he said, was in the form of providing the farmers with funds to help them increase their production.

He said aside the collaboration, the company had also initiated a programme that would build the human resource base in the agriculture sector.

Under the programme, he said, sponsorships were offered to brilliant, needy students in the Faculties of Agriculture in four public universities in the country, namely University of Ghana, Legon, University of Development Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and University of Cape Coast.

Mr Awuni said the effects of food shortages on the global markets would be felt after old stocks in the country were sold out.

According to him, when that happened, imports of rice, wheat and other grains into the country would only be possible through arrangements between governments.

This is because of the embargo on exports by some countries, while others have instituted quotas on grain exports, Mr Awuni said.

During visits to the Makola, Agbogbloshie and Kaneshie markets, traders who sold rice also confirmed the increase in demand for local rice.

Madam Yaa Kwakyewaa, a trader at Kaneshie, said initially patronage was bad and she sometimes had to convince customers to try it, but somehow, they always came back for the rice.

“This rice, when you cook it, is just like the imported perfumed rice,” she said.

She, therefore, urged Ghanaians to patronise the locally produced rice, since it tasted good or even better than the imported ones.

Rose Hayford also reports from Ashaiman that scarcity and high demand for locally produced rice have shot up the cost of a bag pf 84 kilogram locally produced paddy rice from between GH¢30 and GH¢34 to GH¢60 even before milling.

According to the President of the Ashaiman Irrigation Farmers Cooperative Society, Mr Jordan Nyarko Aggor, traders besieged the farm daily in search of paddy rice, hut were always disappointed because there was no rice to be sold to them.

He explained that many farmers at the irrigation site had currently planted maize, with the aim of harvesting it for a ready market, because they had encountered difficulty in the sale of their rice in the previous times.

Mr Aggor observed that the government’s promotion and education for the consumption of local rice had yielded positive results.

He said farmers at the Ashaiman Irrigation Farms would plant rice between May and July, but was not happy that their monies had been locked up after sale of the Nerica seed (a type of rice seed) to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) for distribution to farmers across the country.

Mr Aggor also appealed to the government for a subsidy on such farm inputs as agro-chemicals, because high cost of the inputs had increased the cost of production, adding that the land area for cultivation was being under-utilised and had, therefore, attracted encroachers who took undue advantage to penetrate the dam area.

Mr Aggor said the activities of these encroachers had resulted in the overflow of the banks of the dam, destroying rice plants on the field.

According to him, although they had reported this to the authorities, they had not responded, thus enabling the encroachers to continue with their activities.

The officer in charge at the Ashaiman Centre of the Irrigation Development Authority (IDA), Mr Simon Apio, said the project managers of MOFA were taking steps to find solutions to the problems hindering production of rice and other food items.

Mr Apio gave the assurance that monies realised from the sale of the Nerica seeds would be paid to the farmers before the end of this month.

The acting Irrigation Scheme Manager, Nii Ofoe Hanson disclosed that the farmers were handicapped, and appealed to micro-finance companies to extend financial support to them.

He said with financial support and subsidy on farm inputs, the farmers could break even and pay back the loans to increase production.

Source: Daily Graphic

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