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14.04.2008 General News

Saving the rice industry from total collapse

By The Statesman

Ghana, which produced between 700,000 tonnes of rice annually for both local consumption and export between 1980 and 1998, has seen a dramatic reduction in annual crop harvest to about 200,000 tonnes between 2000 and 2007.

This indicates a rapid collapse of the local rice industry owed to the failure of the decision makers to implement the existing strategies that could sustain and revamp it. The influx of high volume foreign rice in the country has threatened the food security of Ghana and also worsened the plight of local rice farmers.

Reports from the international commodity market reveal that prices of rice have soured to the highest level. The price of rice on the international market has hit its highest price level since the 1970's and many exporters of rice like Vietnam and Thailand are restricting export to protect the local market.

This will in time affect countries that depend on high imports of rice for their consumption. Ghana, as one of the highest importers of rice in sub-Sahara Africa is definitely going to feel the pinch. Indications are that for allowing high importation of rice into the country, the government is corroborating in the process of collapsing the local rice industry.

Food security and the local rice industry have been closely monitored by the General Agricultural Workers' Union. The General Secretary of GAWU, Kingsley Ofei-Nkansah has called on government to study the emerging trend to identify issues that are causing the price hikes and liaise with stakeholders to save the situation.

He expressed concern on the situation of the local rice industry stating that government has the capacity to develop the country's rice industry but seems to be failing to do much to improve the condition.

"We need government to play a lead role towards revamping the rice industry. This should include promoting the consumption of local rice, imposing a levy on imported rice and using the proceeds for developing the local rice industry," he told The Statesman.

The inability of Ghana and Africa to feed their population is the direct outcome of global economic system arranged by the west in a way to intrusively and unfeelingly obstruct and prevent them from employing the strategies which they use to lay foundation of their economic process.

Critics have accused the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for pressuring Ghana's government to remove subsides on Agric and related products. The influx of highly subsidized and inefficiently produced agric products has led to the collapse of Ghana's agriculture and its productive sectors.

Today, all food crop production zones in Ghana depend on food ration to survive. This has increased rural urban migration and caused high rise of unemployment as well as increasing cost of living.

It is as a result of these challenges that prompted GAWU to initiate the Citizens' Voice in Trade Policy and Food Security project, a local rice advocacy project which aims at creating a platform for stakeholders to brainstorm with policy markers on avenues that could be explored to curb the downward trend of rice industry.

The Advocacy team is presently in dialogue with the Parliamentary Select Committees on Trade, Industry and Tourism, Food, and the committee on Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs to propose and implement practical plans to end the challenges posed by external forces as part of plans to collapse the rice industry.

The project Coordinator, Glowen Kyei-Mensah feels that now is the time to do something drastic about food security and the local rice industry in the country. It will be devastating to wait until the entire local rice industry has collapsed before interest is taken.

Stakeholders led by GAWU engaged members of the two parliamentary committees and hope to continue discussions when parliament reconvenes. GAWU noted that engagements with the committees had so far been promising, as regards the acceptance of the proposals and their promise to tackle the situation.

Interest has also been expressed in the operation of GAWU by the Irrigation Development Authority in revamping the rice industry.

The two parties plan to share information on issues related to efforts made so far on the ongoing rehabilitation and construction of irrigation project in some parts of the country as well as pushing the draft irrigation policy for parliamentary approval.

Based on the collaboration, GAWU was invited to witness the sword cutting ceremony of the rehabilitation of the Tono irrigation project in the upper East Region.

The select committees have been challenged to pick up and discuss trade and agriculture related issues to help revive the local rice industry in order to improve the livelihood of farmers.

By slarge

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