The consumption of rice in Ghana, today can be compared to traditional foods such as fufu, kenkey, akple and gari.
In urban centres in particular, rice consumption has increased to the point that local production is unable to meet demand.
Consequently, about 70 per cent of the rice consumed, which is estimated at about US$1 billion dollars annually, is imported.
According to experts, Ghana is capable of producing more than 300,000 tonnes of rice, given the favourable ecological conditions of the country.
It therefore goes without saying that, Ghana has a great potential to expand its present output if its vast lands and swamps are efficiently exploited.
The experts say that, currently, less than 10 per cent of the potentially suitable lands for production of rice are being exploited.
The Ghanaian Times finds it unacceptable that the country’s huge potential to produce rice locally, is left unexploited while importation of the now staple food continues to increase import bill to absurd levels.
We are of the view that it is time for the government to accord high priority to the development of the rice production sector as part of food security strategy of the country.
Deliberate and systematic development of the sector offers tremendous opportunities for the country to cut down imports and reduce foreign exchange spent annually.
It would also be a good prospect to provide sustainable jobs for the youth in the rural areas.
That is why we are happy that the government has initiated moves under the flagship of Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme to boost rice production.
The initiative is expected to propel Ghana to become self-sufficient in rice production by the year 2025.
We understand that the plan by the government is to scale-up rice production in 122 selected districts already actively involved in rice production from this year.
An initial target of producing over 700,000 metric tonnes on 233,000 hectares of land has been set with an expected increase in yields every year to reduce and possibly halt rice importation by 2025.
We are happy that such an initiative is being undertaken to reduce the country’s rice import bill, which no doubt, has a drain on the economy.
As Ghanaians, we must all come to the appreciation that nation building, particularly economic growth can be achieved only through such policies which create jobs, improve livelihoods and endorses food security.
We cannot allow the initiative on rice cultivation and production to pale into insignificance like others before it, when it presents an opportunity for food security.
The Ghanaian Times calls on stakeholders in the rice cultivation and production value chain to provide the needed support to make this initiative a success.