As the country grapples with huge import bills of which chunk of it goes into rice importation, stakeholders in the rice value chain have appealed to the Government to consider investing more in research to improve the cultivation and production of rice to reduce its import.
According to stakeholders, they believe the country’s quest to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production is hinged on the commitments of key actors in providing adequate funds for research into the development of high yielding varieties and innovative technological equipment for processing the grains.
The stakeholders, made up of rice farmers, millers, seed growers, intermediaries, as well as consumers, made the appeal when they participated in the selection of new rice varieties from a demonstration farm at Sokwai, in the Atwima Nwabiagya South Municipality of the Ashanti Region. The 12 new varieties have been developed and released by the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The selection exercise was to help identify the preferred varieties by farmers and consumers to enable the researchers breed and multiply those seeds for planting.
Mr Joseph Panada, a rice farmer at Sokwai, commended the breeders at CRI for releasing new rice varieties every year, which had been beneficial to farmers and others in the rice industry. He bemoaned lack of funding, noting that most farmers do not have the money to buy the seeds from the breeders and thus, appealed to the Government to support the breeders to produce more at subsidised prices to promote local rice production and consumption. “Getting the right seed, land and fertilizer is the best thing to do, with the other implements you are on course,” he said
Mr Panada, who chose the ‘CRI-Agyapa’ variety, released in 2022, said it has a good aroma and a lot of tillers, which could translate into yields.
Mr Kwadwo Asempa, a seed grower stationed at Wiawso, who selected the “CRI-AgraRice” and “CRI-Amankwatia”, said they were the best in the market. According to him, the varieties had the potential to give higher yields compared to others. “They tiller more, the grain quality is strong, the size of the grain good and also has some semblance of the imported rice brands”, he stated.
Appreciating the Preference for Local Rice
Mr Asempa pointed out that in appreciating the preference for local rice, the varieties selected must be able to match the imported ones.
On machinery and equipment, he called for readily available equipment to help in processing the rice to improve quality. Messrs’ Maxwell Ayirebi and Felix Botir, both milers from Ntensere and Nobewam, chose the CRI-Agyapa Rice and said it has the potential to attract more consumers. They noted that the provision of irrigation facilities must be a priority to help maximize crop yields.
Mr Kirpal Agyemang Ofosu, Assistant Breeder, CSIR-CRI, indicated that as researchers, they would work hard in releasing preferred varieties to farmers and appealed to the Government to invest more into rice research to improve production.
Mr Kirpal Agyemang Ofosul auded the Korea Programme on International Agriculture for funding the research project at the CRI.
Meanwhile, rice is a major staple food in the country. Ghana currently consumes about 1.5 million metric tonnes of rice annually, with approximately 50% being imported due to unpredictable quality and quantity of yields. This is largely due to climate change affecting rainfall patterns in a region where most smallholder farmers practice rain-fed agriculture.
To harness the potential of the sector, key investments are required, specifically in irrigation technology to ensure that production and quality can be maintained throughout the entire year. There is vast arable land in the country that can be used for rice farming, and with significant investment in research and capacity building, this potential will be actualized.