A National Rice Initiative aimed at enhancing the country’s rice self-sufficiency and reduce dependence on imports has been launched in Accra.
Dubbed, the Public-Private Partnership for Competitive and Inclusive Rice Value Chain Development: Planting for Food and Jobs-Rice Chapter, it is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development under its special programme “One World-No Hunger” at a cost of US$2.4 million.
The Project is being undertaken by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) in collaboration with the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and other organisations focused on rice production including the JAK Foundation, Volta City Farms, Sparkx, Hopeline Institute and Intervalle.
Spanning three years from December this year, it is targeted at about 130,000 smallholder rice farmers in the Northern, Volta, Central, Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions.
Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, said Ghana’s potential for commercial rice production was huge and requires the efforts of all stakeholders including the government to harness the benefits.
“I have toured the whole country since assuming this ministerial role and my observations at the Volta, Central and Western alone show that we can produce rice to feed the populace and export large quantities as well. Unfortunately, lack of support has been the bane of smallholder to produce to meet the demand. It is time we work to change that,” he stated.
The National rice Initiative, he explained, was in line with government’s plan to transform the agricultural sector as part of its developmental agenda to ensure regular food supply.
He said it was the strategy of the government to reduce rice importation by 30 per cent within the next three years, adding that an increase in domestic production from 442,000 metric tonnes to 600,000 metric tonnes within the next three years was required to meet the targeted import substitution.
The Project, Dr Akoto explained that would increase rice productivity for smallholder farmers, strengthen and expand access to output markets, increase the capacity of the farmers and agricultural systems to prepare and adapt to shocks and improve continental.
Additionally, he said it would also strengthen continental, regional and government multi-sectoral coordination and mutual accountability in the agricultural sector.
Dr Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA, said AGRA was focused on catalyst growth and sustaining an inclusive agriculture transformation in the country by contributing to present framework and improve the sector deliverry systems for improved productivity.
As part of its approach, she stated that AGRA would provide technical assistance to MoFA to develop an appropriate partnership to facilitate investment into rice production infrastructure and value chain.
Further to that, she said AGRA would create commercial opportunities for rice farmers to ensure more access to markets, improved access to services and products including financing and high quality inputs.
Germany Ambassador to Ghana Christoph Retzlaff said the funding of the rice initiative was to support the targets of AGRA and its partners to grow more than 400,000 smallholder farmers in Ghana.
Beyond the support for the National Rice Initiative, he said the German Financial Cooperation was supporting AGRA in the development and implementation of an environmental and social safety system that conforms to international standards.
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS