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Government To Boost Rice Production   
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The government is to take delivery of 80 combine harvesters by the end of the month to boost local rice production within the next two years.

Already, 35 combine harvesters have been deployed on rice fields, mainly in the north, for the first time in several decades and the result, according to the Food and Agriculture Minister, Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, had been incredible. The intervention to boost rice production is expected to reduce the countrys annual rice import bill of between $500 million and $800 million and more important, transform the fortunes of local rice farmers.

Ghanas rice production level, as of 2008, was 300,000 metric tonnes, representing 21 per cent of the national requirement. During his vetting in Parliament early this year, Mr Ahwoi threw a challenge to either double local rice production in two years or quit his ministerial portfolio.

Opening a regional conference of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) in Accra yesterday, the minister wondered why huge foreign exchange should be spent on the importation of rice when there was vast land to increase local rice production.
He said the combine harvesters, which were being acquired from Asian countries, would take a huge burden off the backs of local rice farmers.

He admitted that the quality of local rice was not the best, but he was quick to add that his ministry had put in place a programme to improve quality, such as the cultivation of high-yielding perfume rice seeds. Responding to allegations that local rice was being re-packaged into sacks of imported rice, Mr Ahwoi frowned on the practice as unethical but pointed out that if that was how Ghanaians would accept and patronise local rice, then he would smile at it.
He said apart from rice, the government was also concentrating on boosting maize and soybean production to cater for animal feed requirement. He said the government had given back all unused warehouses and silos to the ministry for the purposes of building national stocks.

He said the school feeding programme offered one of the biggest opportunities for Ghanaian farmers, adding, its a welcome development, provided we understand the programme.The Director of IFAD (Africa Division), Mr Mohammed Beavogui, said in recent years Africa had taken big steps towards regional integration, with the potential to widen market opportunities and boost economic development and good governance.

He, however, noted that the effects of macroeconomic development had not necessarily translated into a significant impact on the livelihoods of poor rural communities who represented more than 60 percent of the population.

The four-day IFAD Regional Project Implementation workshop for West and Central Africa seeks to improve the performance of IFAD-financed programmes in the region.

Source: Daily Graphic

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