Legon, Nov 1, GNA - Dr Kwabena Godfred Ofosu-Budu, a Senior Research Officer of the University of Ghana, Legon, has called on the government, non-governmental organizations and individuals to establish an Agricultural Fund (AGRIFUND) to help develop the rice industry and other agricultural sectors.
Dr Ofosu-Budu said the fund, when established, could cater for the training of scientists for the development of technologies to improve on production, processing and marketing.
He said this on Monday when delivering an Inter-Faculty Lecture at the Presidential Initiative Hall at the University, attended by a cross-section of students and lectures.
Speaking on the topic "The Rice Industry In Ghana: Problems, Challenges and Opportunities", Dr Ofosu-Budu said rice is now one of the most important staple foods in the country due to increasing population and rapid urbanization that has changed the feeding habits of a lot of city dwellers.
He said in the 2003, the country consumed a total of 907,999 metric tones of rice with 152,960 metric tones (17 per cent) domestic production and 755,039 metric tones (83 per cent) from imports. The imports, he said, were mainly from the US and Thailand. Dr Ofosu-Budu said he was most concerned with the imports from Burkina Faso.
Dr Ofosu-Budu said before 1988, the government operated a quota system that restricted imports and subsidized rice cultivation inputs such as fertilizers.
This resulted in a big difference between locally produced rice and low prices which encouraged inefficiencies in the rice industry. He said with the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme in 1998, subsidies on agro-inputs and machinery were removed and the rice imports became liberalized. This caused prices of agro-inputs to increase much faster than the price of locally produced rice, thus eroding the profitability of local rice production.