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01.09.2004 Regional News

N/R farmers urge government to subsidize rice, cotton cultivation

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Tamale, Sept 01, GNA - Farmers' representatives in the Northern Region have called on the government to subsidize the cultivation of rice and cotton to boost the industry.

They said rice and cotton production was on the ascendancy during the Acheampong regime under the "Operation Feed Yourself" programme and the country was able to export rice to Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin.

They said the shortfall in rice production was the result of the importation of cheap and subsidized rice from the United States and Thailand, which ironically, subsidize their rice farmers.

Mr Mohammed Adam Nashiru, National Secretary of the Cotton Farmers Association and Mr Iddrisu Yahuza Yakubu, Northern Regional Secretary of the Rice Farmers' Association said this at a forum in Tamale on Tuesday. The forum, which was sponsored by Oxfam GB, a British NGO, was to enable the rice and cotton farmers to interact with a delegation of United Kingdom parliamentarians on issues concerning the welfare of the farmers.

The farmers said the high cost of inputs such as tractors and combine harvester services were barriers to the production of rice and a hindrance to their livelihood.

The UK delegation was made up of Mr John Bercow, Member of Parliament for Buckingham and shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Ms. Linda Mcavan, Member of the European Parliament and Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party. The rest were Sarah Kline, Head of the UK and European Union Government Relations of Oxford and Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development for the Liberal Democrat Party.

The farmers also complained about the high interest rates demanded by the banks describing them as "not farmer friendly". They appealed to the government to create access for them to market their produce both locally and on the international market.

On cotton, the farmers said the liberalisation of the industry had led to unhealthy competition between the local industry and foreign companies, resulting in the dumping of cheap lint and other textile materials from China and the US into the country.

They called on the government to give logistics and financial support to farmers' organisations to enable them to organise their members into strong organisations to effectively champion their cause.

Mr John Bercow, the leader of the UK delegation, promised to convey the sentiments of the farmers to the appropriate quarters and expressed the hope that something meaningful would come out of their interaction.

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