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Business News Thu, 31 Aug 2006

Rice stockpile deter Banks - Farmers

Asutsuare (E/R), Aug. 31, GNA - Farmers of the Osudoku Agric Cooperative Society Limited in the Dangbe West District, have expressed fear that they will not attract funding from the banks unless the stockpile of paddy rice since September last year is quickly sold. Over 80,000 maxi bags (50kg) of paddy rice are currently locked up in warehouses because of the inability of farmers to find buyers. They stated that although the banks had not come out with any notice to that effect, they feared that financial institutions would be forced to withdraw support due to lack of market.

"When the banks are unable to sell the produce of rice to defray the loans they have given to the farmers. They will simply stop to give us the money," Mr Edmund Narh, a 26-year-old farmer told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) before a durbar to mark the launch of the Rice Week Campaign. Under the current arrangement the banks provide the farmers with funds for cultivation and sale of the produce to defray the loan granted to the cooperative.

About 2,800 family heads are engaged in the Kpong Irrigation Project (KIP).

Mr Gideon Martey, President of the Society, said the absence of ready market for their produce was the major threat to the survival of the KIP and their livelihood. He noted that the issue was aggravated by the increasing importation of foreign rice and rather called for support to farmers to boost local production.

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As a first step he suggested the promotion of local rice consumption through the School Feeding Programme to provide farmers a marketing avenue to save the industry from collapse. Mr Martey said most of the youth who were attracted to farming were becoming frustrated and thinking of leaving in search of non-existing opportunities in the cities.

Mr Ibrahim Akalbila, Interim Coordinator of Ghana Trade and Livelihoods Coalition (GTLC), a nationwide advocacy organization of small-farmers and producers, stressed the need for the Government to consider the reintroduction of tariffs and non-tariff measures to protect local rice producers.

The Coalition said the high level of rice imports was inimical to the development of the Local Rice Industry (LRI). He said the imposition of an additional 10 per cent tariff on imported rice for a period of between five and 10 years could generate proceeds to be invested into the development of the rice sector and support the creation of the proposed Agriculture Fund. The Coalition is launching a three-year campaign to mobilise farmers and other groups to impress on government to adopt proactive policies in the interest of the local rice producers.

Mr Akalbila called on the government to encourage farmers, promote their activities and to initiate and implement policies to improve their livelihood. He noted that if local rice farmers were given the necessary support, they could produce enough to feed the country. Mr Thomas Sekou, Project Manager of KIP, said the project had the capacity to produce 20,000 tonnes of rice annually. 31 Aug 06

Source: GNA
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