Accra, Sept. 23, GNA - Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Food and Agriculture, on Thursday said plans were far advanced to restructure the Aveyime Rice Project to increase rice production locally.
The project also known as the Quality Grain was started in the previous regime and has controversy surrounding it and this Minister said had initially scared private companies to invest in it and now that the clouds over it were settled many companies have openly showed interest in it.
Major Quashigah said, "a number of companies have applied and have been evaluated to make further investments and operate the facility to spearhead the race for self sufficiency in rice production in Ghana" He said proper feasibility studies, which was not part of the original project, would now conducted into the project to know its viability, install the pipes and mechanical pumps and automate the mills to enhance efficiency.
Maj. Quashigah said this at a press briefing to highlight the activities to mark the first-ever Pan-African celebration of the International Year of Rice to be held in Ghana from September 26 to October 1, this year.
President of Ghana, Mr John Agyekum will the international conference on September 28 as part of activities marking the celebration.
In December 2002, the Governments of 44 countries formally requested the United Nation General Assembly to declare the year 2004 the International Year of Rice.
Major Quashigah said rice continued to gain importance as a staple in the Ghanaian diet, especially due to rapid population growth and urbanization.
Although domestic rice production and rice imports have increased over the last five years, the increase in rice imports far exceeded the increase in local rice production.
He said efforts to discourage imports of rice encourage local rice production in the past were not accompanied by the needed investments and modern technological packages required to increase rice output and quality, and also to develop an efficient marketing system for local rice.
The ministry has started rehabilitating irrigation facilities, preparing Upland Water harvesting and management, Lowland Valley Rice under the government's new policy thrust to reduce rice imports by 30 per cent in the medium term.
That would be done by increasing production levels using both intensive and extensive systems of production, and expand the demand for local rice.
Mr Owusu Baah, Director of the Ministry, said government has given subvention institutions such as schools, the Armed Forces and the Police Training colleges were encouraged to use local rice in feeding their students to increase the taste of local rice among the youth.
He said after the opening ceremony of the conference there would be two technical sessions and Ministers in charge of Agriculture from Cote d'ivore, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda and the Japanese Ambassador in Ghana would present technical papers.