The country’s bid to become self-sufficient in rice production by end of 2023 has received a US$3.6million boost under a new project funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Dubbed ‘Technology improvement in the rice value chain project in Ghana’, the project seeks to encourage the use of technology as well as build the capacity of farmers and other actors in the value chain to improve the production of high-quality rice; and is to be implemented by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in partnership with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA).

The JICA-funded project is expected to significantly transform the grain’s production in the Ashanti and Northern Regions where it will be implemented beginning this year, with the ultimate goal of improving food security; and will help increase production of high-quality rice to reduce pressure on the ballooning rice import bill.

“Ghana is very much dependent on rice imports, and if we can succeed in increasing rice production then we can save money. That’s the target,” says the Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, Mochizuki Hisanobu.

Mr. Hisanobu spoke during the project’s launch in Accra, and said by building the capacity of farmers to improve the quality of high market value crops like rice, he expects an impact that can be very transformative and open opportunities for smallholder farmers.

One key component of the project, the Ambassador said, is its comprehensive nature in terms of the beneficiaries.

“A lot of key actors in the national post-harvest value chain will be technologically upgraded, modernised and capacitated. I would like to encourage the beneficiaries of this project to utilise the full opportunity the project will provide to maximise the developmental potential of Ghana’s rice value chain.”

Deputy Food and Agriculture Minister in charge of crops, Yaw Frimpong Addo, applauded the initiative – saying it has come at the right time.

“This UNIDO technical assistance project has come at the right time to support the promotion of technological modernisation and upgrade in the rice value chain to achieve higher production output, market value and quality level.

“Over the years, the government has made conscious efforts at promoting rice production to address food security and poverty reduction through national policies, strategies and initiatives as captured in Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policies I & II (FASDEP I & II), and its current implementation plan – i.e. Investing for Food and Jobs,” he said.

For his part, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Charles Paul Iheanacho Abani, said given the structure of Ghana’s economy wherein the agricultural sector contributes approximately 20 percent of GDP, growth in the sector’s productivity is an essential route for resolution of poverty and food insecurity in line with global Sustainable Development Goals, goal one and two.

Rice consumption

Total consumption in 2020, according to MoFA, amounted to about 1,450,000mt – equivalent to per capita consumption of about 45.0kg per annum. Meanwhile, local production of paddy rice in 2008 and 2020 ranged between 302,000mt and 987,000mt (181,000 to 622,000mt of milled rice) with large annual fluctuations.

This implies that the country depends largely on imported rice to make up for the deficit in domestic rice supply.

The value of rice imports is estimated at over US$200million annually – a situation many industry watchers believe does not portend well for a country with vast land suitable for rice cultivation – and as such puts undue pressure on the cedi, which is continually depreciating against major foreign currencies like the dollar.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that with significant investments in the rice value chain, the gross production value of the domestic rice industry would reach US$856million, which will represent an additional US$511million in gross production value by 2030.

An upgraded rice value chain would also result in an increase in the value-added by US$378million by 2030, with most of the value-added being generated at the production level – US$258million.

Consequently, the rice value chain would also witness an increase in employment with more than 60,000 additional jobs created by 2030, with 12,000 of these opportunities benefitting women and 30,000 for the youth.

Source: Business and Financial Times