Accra, Feb. 27, GNA - Ghana and Japan on Wednesday signed and exchanged notes on food aid grant totalling 650 million yen (5.9 million GH cedis) to provide food aid for flood victims of the northern parts of the country.
The grant aid is in response to an appeal made by Ghana to Japan to help cater for the victims of the devastating October floods that resulted in loss of lives and property and destruction of cultivated farmlands with crops ready for harvest.
Mrs Ellen S. Nee-Whang, Chief Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD, signed for Ghana while Mr Yutaka Nakamura, Charge d'Affairs, Embassy of Japan, initialled for his country.
Mrs Nee-Whang explained that the grant in the form of rice would be procured from agreed countries to supplement the national production for 2008.
"This is in view of the fact that Ghana already imports more than 60 per cent of her rice requirement annually, and the destroyed crops would result in larger imports," she noted.
She said Ghana had been receiving similar food aid in the form of rice from Japan since 1973.
However, such grant was changed into support to the rice industry in 2001 with the initiation of two projects - an irrigation project with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture for rice cultivation and a rice production and marketing project with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, PSD and PSI to encourage local rice production. The Chief Director said part of the rice to be purchased would be sold and the proceeds deposited in a designated account to be utilized in the agricultural sector or in agricultural related activities. She thanked and assured the Japanese government that the food aid would go to the intended beneficiaries to help prevent food shortages and resultant health and economic challenges in the whole country. Mr Nakamura said the grant was provided as part of Japan's support in response to the flood disaster to meet short-term needs of the people affected in the northern regions.
He explained that maize was of the highest demand in the flood area, but considering its high shipping cost that might shrink the total amount of grains that could be purchased, both governments agreed on rice instead.
In another development, Mr Nakamura announced that Japan prior to chairing the G8 Summit in July, would also host the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama under the theme; "Towards a Vibrant Africa: A Continent of Hope and Opportunity" from May 28 to 30.