Business News of 2014-03-23

Comment: We have no excuse to import rice

Ghana’s agriculture is under severe strain. For some time now we have been unable to feed ourselves.

Our major staples, including rice, are imported in large quantities, while we supplement our maize production with some imports. Vegetables are also imported, mostly from Sahelian countries such as Burkina Faso.

Even from nearby Togo, some vegetables and other food crops are imported, although some amount of cross-border trade involving food crops goes on between Ghana and Togo.

President John Mahama, in his State of the Nation Address recently, stirred the conscience of all by bringing to the fore the harm that our importation of every conceivable item is doing to local production and the economy.

Over the years, successive governments have launched programmes for the patronage of made-in-Ghana goods but, unfortunately, public support has been very poor. There have been concerns, particularly over the importation of rice, to the disadvantage of efforts to encourage the local production of rice.

It appears that local efforts at stimulating the cultivation of rice have not been very successful because of the lack of support for farmers who have ventured into this sector. Agriculture is a high-risk area for the banks because farming is basically rain fed. The land tenure system is also a challenge.

We are, however, encouraged by some actions by the government to reverse the situation. In the Daily Graphic of Wednesday, the government announced that it had stepped up efforts at increasing the production and processing of rice locally to reduce the current over-dependence on imported rice.

Our worry, however, is that similar interventions in the past were not followed through and some individuals who ventured into rice production regretted going into the sector because their yields were a disaster or they were indebted to the banks.

The Daily Graphic believes that the initiative to make Ghana self-sufficient in rice production and other food crops is a positive step to reverse our continued over-reliance on food handouts from donors.

Ghana abounds in arable lands that are lying fallow across the length and breadth of the country. All that we need is a policy that will motivate the youth, including university graduates, to venture into agriculture.

That is why we want to know the status of the Youth-in-Agriculture programme of the government. This is because it appears not much is being done to implement the programme to encourage the youth to buy into the initiative.

The Daily Graphic urges the government to provide the necessary leadership to reinvigorate the agricultural sector for food production reminiscent of the ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ programme of the Acheampong administration.