|Rice is important to Ghana’s agriculture and economy but most of these grains are imports from Thailand, Vietnam, and India. / Photo by Chaded Panichsri via Shutterstock|
Rice is important to Ghana’s agriculture and economy but most of these grains are imports from Thailand, Vietnam, and India. The West African country launched a campaign called Eat Ghana Rice aimed to support the local rice industry, yet imports still dominate, radio network Voice of America reports.
The Eat Ghana Rice campaign
The campaign did increase demand for local rice but imported brands continue to dominate across the country. Now that the country is fighting the coronavirus pandemic, members of the rice industry in Ghana shared that locally grown rice may see a boost because of Covid-19.
How the Ghana rice industry may benefit from the Covid-19 outbreak
Since some countries have to temporarily impose agricultural export restrictions to avoid food shortage, the Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana said that the prices of imported rice have soared.
The association’s executive secretary Samson Asaki Awingobit said that during the lockdown, they saw that the imported rice prices soared so Ghanaian consumers were affected. An average Ghanaian consumes about 40 kilograms of rice per year and local farmers can meet about 50% of the country’s demand. Awingobit added that the pandemic made the local rice more competitive, which will lead to a boost in food security and rice production in Ghana.
Rice breeder Maxwell Darko Asante explains that the supply disruptions and the gap between demand and supply caused by the global health crisis show the reason why more investment is required in the local rice industry.
The need for crop research and crop science
Asante went on to say that just as science is helping them deal with the health crisis, it should also be applied to crop scientists. For instance, the government should give more attention to crop research and crop science, especially rice since Ghana allocates much of its budget to importing it.
The country has strengthened its local food production since 2017 through a program called Planting for Food and Jobs. It helps supply subsidized rice seeds as well as fertilizers to local farmers to ensure food security and boost agriculture. The program likewise helps Ghana meet its target of improving boost production of rice to self-sufficiency level by 2023.
VOA featured the story of rice farmer Abena Abedi who, for the past decade, worked with small-holder farmers to promote local rice. Aside from supporting their planting, she also purchases, processes, packages, and then markets the local rice. The farmers “can produce in abundance,” she said. If Ghanaians can develop more lowlands, rehabilitate the available irrigation schemes, and give stimulus packages to the drivers of rice chain value from production to distribution of rice into the inner markets, people can buy the surplus off from the local farmers immediately and pay them.
The increase in demand for local rice after the Eat Ghana Rice campaign is proof of the potential of the local rice market. Abedi said that although the global health crisis has been disruptive in the market, she hopes that it will inspire support for local rice farmers and their roles in buffering food insecurity and how it could boost the local industry.
Ghana is one of West Africa’s most developed nations. Almost a third of the population is living on less than $1.25 a day and less than half of all women in the country have received secondary education, according to the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Reports.
Since 2002, charitable organization The Hunger Project has helped the country by initiating food security programs. This includes food banks and agricultural training to sustain the needs of the communities through all seasons and of any unforeseen environmental challenges. Only 11% of households in Ghana that are a part of their partner communities suffer from moderate to severe hunger. More than 2,056 people have also been trained in health and 32,308 more are trained in nutrition.
|The country has strengthened its local food production since 2017 through a program called Planting for Food and Jobs. / Photo by Natalia Rezanova via Shutterstock|
Agriculture and food security in Ghana
In a 2018 study titled "Agriculture and Food Security in Ghana" published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, the authors explained that the country produces 51% of its cereal needs, 50% of meat requirements, 60% of fish, and less than 30% of raw materials for the agro-based industries.
Rice yields measured in tons per hectare
Meanwhile, scientific online publication Our World in Data shows that Ghana produced 1.25 tonnes per hectare in 2000 and 1.29t per hectare in 2002. Rice yields in 2004 amounted to 1.31 t per hectare, with that number fluctuating throughout the years: 2006 (1.28 t), 2007 (1.27 t), 2008 (1.53 t), 2010 (1.71 t), 2011 (1.50 t), 2012 (1.67 t), 2014 (1.58 t), 2015 (1.69 t), and 2018 (1.73 t).
Ghana’s finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta, who is also an economist, recently admitted that the government can't continue the partial lockdown it imposed due to pandemic. He believes that the Ghanaian economy that is largely dependent on the informal sector could not sustain President Nana Akufo-Addo’s decision beyond three weeks.
The finance minister spoke at an event at the Jubilee House, which is the presidential palace in Accra, to say it was necessary to lift the lockdown after three weeks. He said that when you consider what happened during the lockdown, it was clear that the country could not sustain it longer given that about 90% of their population is informal. These people have to go out every day to earn wages. “It became increasingly impossible to continue with such policy,” he added, as published by Ghana news provider Graphic Online.
Although the government was implementing monetary and fiscal measures to mitigate the negative effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and provide relief for households and businesses, it brought Ghana’s three years of economic growth of 6% to a halt. Ofori-Atta anticipates that the economic growth will slow to 1.5% at least in the next 37 years. Meanwhile, the commercial banks in the country have offered a syndicated facility of GHS3 billion to support major industries and grant a six-month moratorium on principal repayments among selected businesses.
Ghana may be a net importer of rice but its government has already brought several structural changes in its policies to develop regional development of grains. The pandemic only highlights how the country can boost its domestic rice production by reducing imports.