Mr Abraham Dwuma Odoom, Chief Policy Agricultural Advisor at the John Agyekum Kufour Foundation, has identified the cultivation of heterogeneous rice varieties as one of the challenges of the production of the cereal in Ghana.
He noted that local rice farmers mostly combined different types of varieties on the same field making it very challenging for millers to go in for them. Mr Odoom, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency on issues concerning rice production in the country, said the rice sector also faced issues in the value chain keeping cost of production very high.
Thousands of bags of local rice harvested during the last farming season in the Northern Region have remained in the warehouses and homes as farmers struggle to find buyers.
Some of the farmers said the major rice off-takers in the region stopped buying rice because prices of imported rice had become lower due to the benchmark value discount.
Ghana consumes some 80,000 tonnes of rice per year and currently produces sufficient to satisfy half of this demand with the main rice-growing regions being Volta, Northern, Upper East and Upper West.
There are 239,340 hectares of land under cultivation of rice, with most of them being used for paddy rice farming.
The Policy Advisor said there was the need for a regulatory body to monitor the activities of farmers to ensure that they produced the type of rice the miller needed, so that when the cereal was harvested, they could easily be picked.
He suggested a contract system of farming, which he introduced in Nigeria, where farmers engaged millers before production and harvesting.
Meanwhile, Mr Bagbara Tanko, the Head of Public Relations, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, said the outcry of rice farmers and the Rice Millers Association about the benchmark value policy was legitimate.
He said the ministry on its special rice initiative under the Planting for Food and Jobs, was putting measures in place to address the food import reduction agenda of the government.
Mr Tanko said the government was working on import substitution for rice and poultry and hoping Ghana would be self-sufficient in rice production by 2023.
Consequently, improved varieties and substantial quantities of certified rice seeds are being made available to farmers.
The Head of Public Relations commended, the private sector for establishing rice mills across the country to improve on the grains,indicating that the ministry was complementing their efforts to ensure good harvest.
Mr Tanko said the government had brought in some equipment and subsidized them for rice farming communities to enhance their production.