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Should Ghana import rice?

Rice has become one of the main diets in most Ghanaian homes due to its easy preparation and unique taste, but only 20 per cent of locally–grown rice is consumed in urban areas

Should, Ghana, import, rice, africa, NRDS, AfricaOnly 20 per cent of locally–grown rice is consumed in urban areas

Current Ghana experience with regard to significant growth in per capita rice consumption is as a result of urbanization and changing consumer preferences, challenging the government to work assiduously to reduce reliance on imported rice, thereby improving food security and conserving foreign exchange.

 

Information on the National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS) for Ghana revealed that the per capita rice consumption in Ghana is currently 38 kg and that is expected to rise to 63kg in 2015, giving an aggregate demand of 1.68mn metric tonnes.

Consumption of rice keep on increasing over the years with population growth mainly because rice has become one of the main diets in most Ghanaian homes due to its easy preparation and unique taste.

Rice in contemporary Ghana competes seriously with the country’s traditional staple foods of maize, cassava, millet and plantain. In addition, the increasing number of fast – food restaurants and vendors in the major cities has increased the demand for rice.

 

Total rice consumption

It must be expected that imported rice will be preferred by Ghanaian urban consumers because of its higher quality. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture Facts and Figures Report (2009/2010) says urban markets represent about 76 per cent of total rice consumption.

Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) however has an unencouraging patronage of the Ghana rice by indicating that only 20 per cent of locally–grown rice is consumed in urban areas, with the rest consumed in rural areas.

It is a fact that domestic rice production and supply has never been at par with the increasing demand for high quality rice and the changing consumer preferences towards sweet aromatic and long – grain white rice.

Indeed, some Ghanaians prefer US long–grain rice, despite the fact that it is often one of the highest priced on the market, because of its high quality and taste.

Again, there is the sweet aromatic long–grain white rice from Thailand which is strongly competing with US rice but that is mostly preferred by the high–income consumers.

In May 2008, the Government of Ghana saw the need to cushion the impact of the global food crisis by removing the 20 per cent duty on rice and other products but restored it in January 2010. Automatically the restoration of the 20 per cent duty slowed down rice  imports in 2010 and the demand for rice began to increase creating an opportunity for increased rice imports.

The countries that supply the bulk of the rice to Ghana are the United States, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, India and Korea.

It is unfortunate that the US is a primary supplier, with about 30 per cent market share in Ghana, and in the country, both imported and domestic rice are sold on the same market in the urban centres. It is sad because Ghana has been blessed with a favourable climate, fertile lands and expertise to cultivate good quality rice but the urgency with which to approach it is always lacking.

For instance USDA Foreign Agricultural Service report indicates that Ghana’s rice imports will increase to 330,000 metric tonnes in the 2011/2012 market year, up from an estimated 320,000 metric tonnes for the 2010/2011 market year.

The report says, “This is due to increases in demand for rice and the shortfall in domestic production. This volume of exports will bring the total rice imports bill to some $300mn – it could be higher if global prices should escalate.

The report says domestic rice production for the 2011/2012 market year will rise to 310,000 metric tonnes, up from 295,000 metric tonnes in 2010/2011 market year. This sharp increase is due to Government’s resolve to increase rice yields by introducing improved high – yielding, disease – resistant rice varieties to producers and assisting them to adopt low – cost water – management practices.

Because farmers are unable to buy fertilisers for rice production due to its high cost, the natural consequence is that, there is always low productivity in production.

A local radio station, Joy FM reported that, “The average yield of rice has been between 1 – 2 tonnes/ha paddy and could be higher. The Government believes that subsidies will make fertilisers more affordable, thereby increasing application rates which will ultimately increase yields. In view of this, Government intends to improve the quality of locally produced rice in order to stimulate demand for it. Regarding rice consumption, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service report estimates 620,000 metric tonnes for 2011/2012 market year.”

But the Government of Ghana says it has a strong interest in reducing reliance on imported rice to improve food security and conserve foreign exchange. That is why the MoFA would like to see domestic rice production grow at even faster rates than rice demand alone, based investment in commercial rice farming.

Again, the Government says foreign investors interested in commercial scale rice farming have the opportunity to achieve attainable yields of 4.0 – 4.5 metric tonnes per hectare from irrigated, mechanized farming of aromatic, long – grain varieties to meet Ghana’s significant and growing rice demand.

 

By Emmanuel Yartey


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