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03.11.2008 General News

Dilemma of the Ghanaian rice farmer

By The Statesman

A documentary which seeks to portray the economic suffering and occupational hardships that Ghanaian rice farmers go through in cultivation, harvesting and marketing of their  produce, has been developed and launched by the General Agricultural Workers Union, Action Aid and other civil society organizations.

The documentary, entitled, "The Dilemma of the Ghanaian rice Farmer', seeks to catch the attention of stakeholders, policy and decision makers on the plights of the Ghanaian rice farmer to draw the needed y assistance.

The project coordinator at GAWU, Glowen Kyei Mensah, said the documentary aims at advocating against removal of subsidies, unfair competition in the local rice market brought by cheap foreign imports and the mass influx of foreign rice into the local rice market.

 It moves to promote sustainable citizens engagement on trade policies and related food security issues, strengthen the capacity of rice farmers and agric employees to engage  government on local rice development issues.

'The documentary hopes to achieve a stronger organization of rice farmers at local, regional and national levels'.

It is believed that rice has been known in West African sub-region for more than thee thousand years ago. 

According to Emmanuel Aggrey Intim, in a speech at the launching ceremony, the African rice variety, that's the red (Oryza glaberima) was selected and established many year"s before the whites came to the gold coast.

White rice, he said, became more important in the 1740s when large imports were introduced after locusts invaded the Gold Coast subsistent economy.

'Since the 15th century, the white rice from Asia has gradually replaced the indigenous varieties.

The process of change was heightened after the First World War. Rice development in the gold coast began in the 1920s when the first rice mill was established at Esiama in the Western region',according to him.

'During the world war two rice imports ceased and this, coupled with increasing prices, induced increased local production.

From 1950 t0 1960, the policy towards modernizing agriculture was introduced and rice production became an essential part of it. This brought the level of rice self sufficiency to 28%'.

The 'Operation Feed Yourself'initiative introduced in the early 1970s emphasized rice production and as a result, large scale rice was produce through machinery fertilizers, seed and agro-chemical subsidies.

This brought Ghana from28% to almost 100% self sufficiency by 1976. By that time fertilizer subsidy was 80%'.

He noted that the economy of the northern region, which is in dire straits today, was massively propped up by the large scale cultivation of rice of which 70% of domestic output came from there.

The World Bank discouraged the support system, arguing that Ghana was economically better off in importing rice than producing it locally.

'Subsequently, the introduction of liberalized policies from the mid 1980s caused the gradual removal of support for the rice industry.

By 1991, all support, both production and price had been removed. Rice self sufficiency had retrogressed to under 60%'.

'Today we are back to 30% self sufficiency. The World Bank argument that we should allow economic resources to be better allocated by the forces of supply and demand is not practiced by its master, that's the US and Europe,' he added.