Government is to assist rice producers with processing equipment to help improve production and standards in the industry. Under the Inland Valleys Rice Development Project (IVRDP) rice producers would be supported with medium term credit to acquire 50 mini mills, 60 digital moisture meters and 125 weighing scales to boost production.
Mr Godwin Ocloo, Eastern Regional Director of Agriculture, announced this at a two-day workshop organised for stakeholders in the rice industry at the University of Ghana Agricultural Research Centre at Okumaning near Kade in the Kwaebibirem District in the Eastern Region at the weekend.
Fifty participants drawn from Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eastern, Central and Western Regions attended the workshop.
The participants included rice producers, processors, millers, traders, scientists and researchers from Crop and Food Research Institutes and the University of Ghana Agricultural Research Centre at Kade.
The rest were officials from the Ministries of Food and Agriculture, Finance and Economic Planning and the Project's Management Staff. Discussions at the workshop were on types of mini-mills available for rice processing for the production of good quality rice.
Cost and efficiency of various types of milling machines available in the country, the durability of processing machines and the availability of spare parts and their costs. It also focused on maintenance cost of machines used in the industry, training for users, after sales service and training of milling operators and mechanics.
Mr Emmanuel Frimpong, Co-coordinator of the Project said it was established to provide support services, technical and financial support to small-scale rice producers, processors and traders to enhance rice production in the country. He said in addition, it would assist improve the living standards of farmers and reduce poverty among rice farmers.
Mr Frimpong said the national demand for rice was high and since the country had large acreage of land lying idle, the government had contracted a loan to support inland valley rice production, it was therefore, up to rice farmers to make judicious use of the facility to increase rice production.
He said the project had targeted to cultivate 4,500 hectares of rice in 25 inland valley sites in the country to increase rice production and ensure production of quality rice.
Mr Frimpong was optimistic that with determination, hard work and efficiency, the project will achieve its aim of increasing rice production from 1.5 tonnes a hectare in the past to 4.5 tonnes a hectare this year. This, he said, could also be achieved through the development of valley sites with facilities for irrigation.
The Project Coordinator said the five-year project now in its third year would include improvement of 200 kilometre feeder roads and 80 farm tracks.
Dr Godfred Kwabena Ofosu-Budu, a Senior Research Officer of the University of Ghana Agricultural Research Centre and a facilitator of the project, said rice had become the staple food in the country due to its high demand. He stressed the need for intensive education for the rice farmers to enable them increase production to feed the nation.
Dr Ofosu-Budu said with enough education the quality of rice produced would improve to compete on the world market and create employment for Ghanaians. He advised the stakeholders to unite and form cooperative groups to enable the banks offer them the necessary equipment and milling machines to enhance production.
This, he said, would result in reduction of rice importation to enable the government utilise foreign exchange earned for other ventures towards socio-economic development of the country.