Ghana is to become self-sufficient in rice production by the year 2025. This may sound ridiculous but certainly not impossible.
The disclosure is couched in the Akufo-Addo government’s newly introduced initiative on rice production, strategically structured as an arm of its flagship Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme, to boost the production of the crop in the country.
Ghana is said to be importing rice close to the tune of $1billion annually with an apparent negative effect on the national economy and therefore any attempt to reduce or halt the over-dependence on imported rice must, of course, be considered as a welcome piece of good news.
But no! The hard truth is that some efforts made in the past to resolve the rice importation puzzle virtually failed to produce the desired results rendering it a seemingly intractable enterprise.
It therefore stands to reason that any news on Ghana achieving self-sufficiency status in rice production, let alone stop rice importation appears a rather far cry or far-fetched and will naturally be taken with a pinch of salt. That’s understandable, you know.
The irony is that Ghana with its vast fertile lands, human and other resources, according to agricultural experts, has the potential of becoming a major rice producer capable of meeting local demand and even export. So what’s the problem?
The Akufo-Addo administration, in an audacious attempt to have a go at the problem, has announced a plan to ginger up rice production in 122 selected districts across the country taking effect from 2019 .
Outdooring the plan in Kumasi recently at a sensitisation workshop on rice cultivation for some selected municipal and district chief executives and their directors of agriculture from the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo regions, Mr Augustine Collins Ntim, Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development indicated that the selected districts are already actively involved in rice production.
The focus on the new initiative, he explains, is to intensify rice cultivation and production with an initial target of producing over 700,000 metric tonnes on 233,000 hectares of land in the 2019 farming season, register dramatic increase of yields every year and ultimately reduce and possibly halt rice importation by the year 2025.
Failure is dreaded, abhorred and considered out of the question as far as this new initiative is concerned and so every necessary step has been taken to ensure its smooth and successful implementation.
The procurement of the requisite equipment and machines notably tractors, tillers, planters, harvesters and threshing machines as well as rice seeds and fertilisers for distribution to rice farmers in all the 122 selected districts under very soft terms, thus comes as little surprise.
As an additional incentive package, rice farmers will enjoy the services of agricultural extension officers at no cost to them.
Like its parent PFJ programme and sister appendages, the special initiative being co-piloted by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture(MOFA) and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development(MLGRD), has also been tagged with the multi-purpose agenda of helping to improve national food security, job creation and private sector participation.
Mr Collins Ntim who is in charge of Rural Development and Agriculture hypes the importance of all agricultural initiatives and interventions introduced by the government with a simple and clear statement that “MOFA and MLGRD see agriculture as a vehicle for driving rural economic development besides serving as an avenue to boost local revenue generation by the district assemblies”.
The country’s rice import bill, as stated elsewhere, is gargantuan and, no doubt, a drain on the economy. We don’t need economists to drive that home to us as a people.
The new initiative on rice cultivation and production must not only survive but more important, become a success story this time. For God’s sake it should not be made to pale into insignificance like its “predecessors”. Ghana can hopefully surmount. this albatross of over-reliance on imported rice this time round.
By FRANK OTCHERE