Ken Ofori Atta, the Minister of Finance, has announced that the government is committed to improving the rice industry in the country and plans to become a net exporter of rice within the next three years.
The government will work with the private sector and seek the technical expertise of Thailand’s rice industry in order to achieve its goal of becoming a net exporter of rice. This is being done in an effort to decrease the amount of foreign exchange spent on importing rice each year, the Minister said.
“It’s actually quite criminal for the country to continue to import rice while we’re endowed with arable lands, water, and favorable weather conditions for growing crops to mitigate any possible food crisis.”Ofori-Atta
The Minister mentioned that efforts are being made as part of the Ghana Cares Obaatan-pa program to support the sustainability of rice producers and other participants in the value chain through the implementation of strategic measures.
In accordance with the Obaatan-pa program, agriculture is recognized as a key sector that needs to be revitalized and transformed in order to achieve rapid competitive import substitution, support commercial farming, increase food security, and provide raw materials for value-addition in agro-processing industries, leading to job creation, exports, and industrialization.
The current level of rice imports, worth around $2 billion, is not only unsustainable but also “criminal,” and therefore there is a need to support the private sector in increasing production and ending this practice, Ofori Atta said.
The Minister also added that there has been an increase in rice production in the country, including an increase in hectares cultivated, tonnes produced per hectare, and a 63% increase in milled rice from 2017 to the present, thanks to advancements in technology and the use of disease-resistant seeds.
Technical Expertise and Financial Support Required
With the right technical expertise and financial support therefore, the Minister believes that it is possible for the country to become a net exporter of rice within the next three years. These remarks were made while addressing a delegation of rice investors from Thailand, who have partnered with the Jospong Group to develop an integrated rice farming project.
Joseph Siaw Agyapong, the Executive Chairman of the Jospong Group, stated that the government’s assurance of providing strategic support to the private sector in rice production motivated his company to embark on a visit to Thailand to learn from their best practices and establish financial investment partnerships in Ghana’s rice sector.
“The Thailand Export-Import Bank has made a financial commitment of $160 million in support of machinery and technological transfer, and a team of experts from Thailand will provide technical and equipment support for the entire rice value chain in Ghana”.Mr. Agyapong
Mr. Agyapong emphasized that the project, which will be carried out with the support of Thailand’s expertise, is a Ghanaian project and not just a project for the Jospong Group. The project is larger than just the brand, and therefore all stakeholders in the rice value chain will be consulted and included in the process, the executive chairman further stated.
While in Thailand, the Jospong Group signed a memorandum of understanding with key sector rice players for the establishment of a seed development and research center, rice mechanization centers in all regions, bio-organic fertiliser production centers, and the supply of farm implements and rice mills in Ghana.
With the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) also committed to this new development by announcing a reduction of the discounts on the value of imported goods, revenues for the country in 2023 is expected to experience some gains to enable government offset its numerous expenditures as well as undertake its projects for the coming year.