‘NEWEST’ Rice – a solution in time

Rice is one of the highly consumed cereals in Ghana. Several tonnes of rice are consumed in the country annually. According to a Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Kennedy Osei Nyarko, Ghana consumes about 940,000 tonnes of rice every month as against the country’s production capacity of about 400,000 tonnes.

In other to shore up the country’s high demand for rice, government spends huge sums of money importing rice annually. A Ghanaweb publication of November 9, 2018, headlined: “Ghana spends $1.1 billion on rice importation – Deputy Trade Minister reveals” quoted the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Robert Ahomka Lindsay of having said that Ghana imported rice worth US$1.1 billion in 2017.

Rice importation, he noted, “takes 82% of all imports into the country”, stressing that the leading product imported into Ghana every year from Vietnam is rice, which is by far the largest contributor to the import quota.

Rice importation remains one area where Ghana spends a lot of money annually. This is because Ghanaian farmers are unable to meet the huge rice demand by the Ghanaian consumers.

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The government, for instance, has considered banning rice importation by 2022 due to the huge sums of money the state spent importing rice. A Graphic Online’s publication of December 1, 2019, titled: “Government to ban rice imports by 2022” cited a Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Kennedy OseiNyarko, as saying rice importers have welcomed the government’s intention to ban rice importation by 2022.

Climate change

Many factors account for why Ghanaian rice farmers are unable to meet the market demands. They include high salty soils, soils losing their nutrients or fertility, soils becoming more dry and lacking capacity to hold more water, and irregular patterns of rains. These factors are mainly caused by the impact of climate change.

The world’s climate is changing and the changing climate comes with its own challenges. Among these challenges include droughts, salty soil, irregular and unpredictable rain patterns, pests and diseases. All these factors affect food crop production. 

With the realities of climate change dawning on all, particularly on agriculture, crop yields have been badly affected. Many scientists have cautioned that the increasing effects of climate change will affect food production in the world and Ghana is no exception.

The World Food Programme (WFP) report of 2018 revealed that increase in crop yield per hectare is significantly slower as compared to rates of rising population.

The impact of climate change is resulting in a very high rate of land degradation, causing enhanced desertification and nutrient deficient soils.

And with many arable lands becoming deficient in nutrients, which agricultural scientists already consider a major threat to farm production in Ghana, many farm lands in the Ghana will lose their ability to grow crops. This is because many of our traditional crops cannot grow on lands that have become saline, lack nitrogen and have low water holding capacity.

An article sourced from Springer.com indicated that “Extreme drought conditions, frequently occurring due to climate change, exacerbate the productivity of crops by causing nutrient immobilisation and salt accumulation in soils making them dry, unhealthy, saline and finally infertile. Such barren lands become non-arable with course of time and are eventually abandoned by farmers leading to economic losses and social issues.”

Similarly, a report published by United Nations Environment Programme in 2017, indicated that 500 million hectares of farmland has been abandoned due to drought and desertification resulting in major social and environmental constraints.

Citing Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in a publication titled: “Impact of climate change on agriculture production and its sustainable solutions” published in 2019 by the Springer.com notes that “Hence if the trends continue, in very near future crop losses may increase at an unprecedented rate which will substantially contribute to reduced production, spiked food prices, and it will become difficult to cope up with rising needs of growing population.”

It therefore behooves on farmers to adopt new crop variety that have been engineered to withstand the adverse effect of climate change such as the ‘NEWEST Rice’, which is currently been developed by Ghanaian scientists.

At a recently held training programme organised by Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB –Ghana), the Coordinator, DrAmpadu-Ameyaw mentioned that a team of Ghanaian scientists are currently working on a new rice variety called the ‘NEWEST Rice.’

The term NEWEST, which is an abbreviation of “Nitrogen Efficient, Water Efficient, and Salt Tolerance” is a new type of rice variety which will be able to grow in areas where the soil has high salt content, lack nitrogen and also have low water holding capacity.

According to DrAmpadu-Ameyaw, the goal of this GM rice is to develop and disseminate farmer preferred and locally adapted rice varieties with enhanced nitrogen-use efficiency, water-use efficiency and salt tolerance.

He explained that the on-going research is supported by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), which is assisting farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa by providing them with practical technology solutions capable of addressing their farm productivity limitations and improving their livelihoods.

For DrAmpadu, with a variety like the NEWEST Rice, Ghanaian rice farmers will be able to produce more rice to meet the market demand in spite of the impact of climate change.

He said many Ghanaian rice farmers are unable to grow more rice due to the effect of the climate change which has affected many rice farmlands.

He notes that biotechnology is becoming more relevant as the world climate is changing and becoming unfavorable to non-biotech crops.


For instance, in 2017, 67 countries adopted biotech crops and these constituted 43 which imported and 24 which planted biotech crops.

Similarly, in 2018, 21 developing countries planted 54% (103.1 million hectares) of biotech crops.

According to an article written by Joan Conrow titled: “Study: GMO crops could help offset climate change impacts” published on the website of Alliance For Science on November 30, 2018, notes that new research suggests that the type of yield gains made possible by genetic engineering (GE) will be needed to offset climate change impacts on agriculture.

It adds that “Though agricultural productivity in Africa and Asia is predicted to be heavily impacted by climate change, political leaders in those regions have been slow to adopt GE technology in the face of intense opposition driven primarily by western-funded anti-GMO activists.”

There is every evidence that climate change is having a devastating impact on agriculture and the best way to get out of this menace is to adopt biotechnology crops such as the NEWEST Rice.

By Benedicta Gyimaah Folley

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