Yahaya Nuhum, a rice farmer, in an interview with Times Business on the sidelines of the Local Rice Bazaar held yesterday argued that improved local rice would encourage more consumption and encourage farmers to cultivate more.
“A boost in production and improvement in the packaging of the local rice would encourage increase domestic patronage, thereby reducing the importation of rice,” he said
The local rice Bazaar was organised by Tuma-Lana, a local organisation with the support of SNV, a Dutch Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and was meant to encourage the consumption of locally produced rice.
The bazaar which was under SNV’s funded project dubbed “Rice farmers can feed West Africa project’ had high patronage by residents of Tamale and its surrounding communities and organisations.
SNV is promoting local rice production and consumption by engaging farmers and other stakeholders in the rice sector value chain.
It is estimated that Ghana imports between US$200 million and US$400 million worth of rice annually.
The amount is said to be one of the major factors that swells the country’s import bill, while putting pressure on the local cedi which is consistently losing value against the United States’ dollar.
Due to the high demand for the cereal, particularly the perfumed brand, many business people have found rice imports a lucrative venture and are importing from all sources around the world.
On the other hand, the government has also found it an easy source to make some revenue and has since 2010, reintroduced taxes on the importation of rice. The move has not only made the importation of rice and its sale to the people more expensive but has also created the platform for people to smuggle the cereal into the country.
According to Food Security Ghana, two of the major motivators for smuggling rice are the high import tariffs and, more importantly, the high differences between neighbouring countries’ duties and taxes.
It said in the rice sector, a gap of 24.5 per cent exists between import duties as compared to Ghana’s 37 per cent and Ivory Coast’s 12.5 per cent, leading to massive smuggling on Ghana’s western border.
Mr. Abdul-Jalil Zakaria, Rice Project Coordinator of SNV said the rice bazaar was geared towards behavioral change and whipping up the interest of consumers towards local rice.
He was of the conviction that the country could reduce the huge import of rice into the country if innovative ways were found to make it more attractive to consumers.
According to him, SNV initiated the rice project to increase production, promote consumption and increase the quality of the grain for the market.
Mr. Zakaria said the bazaar was in response to the need to draw the attention of consumers that Ghana rice had come of age and that the negative attributes of local rice were a thing of the past.