Government on Monday announced it had cut back on rice importation by 30 per cent and had increased local production of the cereal by 59 per cent.
Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, Minister of Food and Agriculture, made this known at a cocktail organized by the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) for nominees for this year’s Farmer’s Day National Award scheduled for Friday, November 2, 2012.
The feat was achieved through Government’s policies and interventions which included the Northern Rural Growth Programme aimed at contributing to an equitable and sustainable poverty reduction and food security among rural households and to increase income of northern rural households on a sustainable basis.
Others were the subsidized fertilizer, distribution of improved seeds, farm machineries, the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority project and other rice projects initiated by the Government.
Mr Ahwoi commended the farmers for their contribution towards ensuring food security in the country and called on them to add value to the raw materials they produced.
It is estimated that Ghana spends more than 450 million dollars annually on rice importation to augment local demand.
In 2009 the country spent 218 million dollars on importing rice, an amount which is higher than that spent in 2008 ($187 million) and in 2007 ($157 million).
In spite of efforts made in local rice production, it is said that the cost of production remained high and uncompetitive in the domestic market due to relatively cheaper imported rice.
Imported rice which comes mainly from the US, Taiwan, Vietnam or Thailand compete with rice produced locally due to significant quality gap that existed between locally produced and imported rice caused by cost of inputs, poor post-harvest handling, lack of access to improved processing technologies and marketing challenges.
Meanwhile Mr Stephen Kpordzih, Managing Director of ADB observed that the Bank had succeeded in strengthening its commitment to core business of agricultural financing, adding that the financial institution was on course to achieve and exceed its budget of GH˘170 million for the year.
“Loan approvals to the agricultural sector have increased progressively year to year. From GH˘39.2 million in 2009, we achieved a sharp rise to GH˘100.1 million in 2010 and GH˘141.7 million in 2011”, he said.
Mr Kpordzih added that total loan approvals to the agriculture sector had already reached GH˘146 million by mid October indicating that the Bank was on track to exceed its budget for the sector.
He described ADB’s long standing associating with the National Farmers’ Day Celebration and Awards Scheme as an important aspect of the Bank’s corporate social responsibility.
Mr Kpordzih said “our sponsorship which covers the First Prize, in the form of a three-bedroom house, the Farmers Forum held earlier, and this ceremony, appropriately underlines the importance we attack to the celebration and its associated award scheme”.
He expressed gratitude to the farmers and fishermen for their hardwork and commitment towards supporting the Bank to succeed stressing that the farmers and fishermen remained the core of their clientele base.
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