Rice millers in Ghana are hopeful of meeting over 60 percent of local demand for the grain if government designs a deliberate policy that encourages state institutions to buy Ghana rice during and after festive seasons.
With the festive season just around the corner, public and private companies are likely to share bags of rice and other food items as end-of-year presents to their staff. Most often, these companies purchase foreign rice for their staff due to the preference for imported rice.
Currently, rice imports are estimated to cost the nation over US$1.1billion every year – a situation that is said to put pressure on the exchange rate regime, leading to a depreciation of the cedi. This, stakeholders in the rice value chain have argued, could be reversed to reduce the pressure on the local currency as well as create jobs for Ghanaians if the government led in the purchase of Ghana rice.
“Foreign rice producers get a lot of subsidies from their countries, so we can’t compete with them. However, if we get the government to support us as an off-taker of Ghana rice, we can supply a large part of the market and the battle will be half-won,” Convener of the Rice Millers Association, Yaw Adu Poku, told the B&FT.
He explained that even though rice millers have received support from the media and general public in recent times, local players still hold less than 45 percent of the market share despite their capacity to supply rice to every part of the country.
“There would have been a glut this year, but we are fortunate that we got a lot of demand coming from Nigeria and that saved the industry. If we can produce for the whole of West Africa, why can’t we meet the rice demands of Ghana,” he stressed.
He is of the view that the government taking the first step in buying and consuming local rice will be a big booster since the government is the economy’s biggest consumer. “If the government takes the initiative through the School Feeding Programme, National Buffer Stock system – and even buying Ghana rice during the festive season, we will be rice sufficient,” he said, adding that this move could change the general preference for foreign rice to Ghana rice.
Mr. Adu Poku lamented that no deliberate policy has been outlined by the government since the media carried the campaign that led to several engagements between stakeholders.
Describing the government’s posture as lackadaisical, he maintained that assurances from policymakers have been mere rhetoric with no implementation plan to support local rice millers. He reiterated that with an entrenched taste for foreign rice, it will take a strategic government policy to shift the demand by emphasizing that the quality of Ghana rice is the same or even better compared to foreign rice.
“When it comes to quality, and even nutrition, the Ghana rice is better than the foreign rice. But since our infancy, we have been fed and made to think that foreign rice is better. This is why it is only a government intervention that can change the people’s minds.”