Rice is one of the major food staples consumed in Ghana, but one in which the country is food insecure, with consumption outstripping domestic production and 66% of rice consumed being imported. The economic costs of relying on imported rice are high and rising. Between 2007 and 2015 the amount spent on imported rice rose from $151m to $1.2bn, with domestic consumption supplemented by imports primarily from Thailand, Vietnam and India.
In 2017 Ghana produced 721,610 tonnes of rice but consumption, at 1.3m tonnes, far outstripped it and left a deficit of 580,300 tonnes. According to figures from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), the rice deficit has been on an upward trend since 2011, from a deficit of 354,762 tonnes in 2011, rising to 503,875 tonnes in 2013, to a peak of 608,602 tonnes in 2015, before falling to 577,977 tonnes in 2016. Domestic rice production grew from 44% of total consumption in 2016 to 47% of total consumption in 2017, modestly reducing the import burden. The national rice deficit continued to grow even as the total domestic output of rice increased by 27% in the five-year period between 2013 and 2017, from 569,500 tonnes in 2013 to 721,610 tonnes in 2017.
There is a cultural preference in Ghana for imported rice, as it is seen as being better quality. However, Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the minister of food and agriculture, told local press in June 2018 that the reliance on imported rice was unsustainable and underscored the need to boost domestic rice production in order to meet the demand. The government has put in place a series of measures to revolutionise the sector and ease imports of basic commodities – notably rice – and boost exports.
This focus on boosting production has already paid off, with 2017 rice output 4.9% higher than the 687,680 tonnes produced in 2016, the fourth consecutive annual increase in output. Officials attribute the increase in production to the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme and the development of irrigation schemes, and hope this is a shift to a dynamic where most of the rice consumed is locally produced.
In 2017 President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government launched its flagship agricultural policy, the PFJ, a four-year, GHS3.3bn ($713.1m) nationwide programme designed to improve the performance and size of Ghana’s agriculture sector, boost food security and create jobs. In June 2018 it was announced that some 3000 extension officers were to be employed to support the PFJ. The programme, which focuses on cereals (including rice), legumes and vegetables, has five pillars: seed access and development, fertiliser access and systems development, agriculture extension services, market and e-agriculture. Rice was selected for inclusion in the PFJ programme as it is an increasingly popular food and has a short gestation period, and thus can generate a meaningful return on investment for farmers in a relatively short period of time.
Under the seed pillar of the PFJ the government supplied 1699 tonnes of rice seed to farmers in 2017 at a price that was subsidised by 50%. The rice seed distributed was 39% of the total seed stock distributed under the programme in 2017, with the other crops covered in the first year being maize and soybeans. The seed stock was of high quality and sourced from certified seed companies. In addition to providing higher-quality seed at subsidised prices to farmers, the government also committed to strengthening the research and development of higher-yield strains of rice, with the objective of increasing yields in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. The PFJ programme aims to strengthen the seed production and distribution value chain to minimise leakages at different points in the system. Under PFJ, farmers across the country received the fertiliser that they required at a subsidised cost and were provided with more consistent agricultural extension support services. A key objective of the PFJ programme is to bring greater transparency to how fertiliser is distributed across the country. To achieve this, the government worked with fertiliser distribution companies to ensure that all of the suppliers could get fertiliser to farmers across the country in a timely manner. One of the factors that has previously driven fertiliser misuse and low yield rates was the late application of fertiliser or inadequate quantities. These factors were alleviated under PFJ through the centralised and early facilitation efforts of the government.
A special window targeting youth, the Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP), was launched under the PFJ and to date has given rise to significant increases in yield outputs for crops. Through the YIAP, private companies participating in PFJ are incentivised to mobilise young people within their districts of operation and provide additional support and incentives to encourage participation in farming, with a particular focus on rice and maize. Under the broader PFJ programme the average yield of rice nationwide increased 48% over the course of 2017 from 2.7 tonnes per ha to 4 tonnes per ha. Under the YIAP window specifically, the average nationwide yield for the staple increased by more than 100% over the course of 2017, from 2.7 tonnes per ha to 5.5 tonnes per ha. Increases of a similar magnitude were also observed for the maize crop output.
The main rice-growing regions in Ghana are in the north of the country, including the Volta, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions. There are 239,340 ha of land under cultivation of rice, with most of this being used for paddy rice farming. Paddy rice farming, which cultivates rice on small, level flooded fields, is water intensive and thus government officials have worked to increase area under irrigation. The Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA), an agency operating within the MoFA tasked with the promotion and marketing of irrigation use across the country, implemented a number of projects that have led to the total area that is developed for irrigation under formal irrigation increasing by 9.1%, or an additional 222,000 ha, from 2016 to 2017. This additional coverage came largely from new flood-recession schemes that were developed in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions, three of Ghana’s rice-growing regions. GIDA received technical and financial support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Bank to implement its formal irrigation programmes. Further plans are in the works to be able to increase the area that is under irrigation, with some 55 irrigation projects under way nationwide, 22 of which are being managed by GIDA.
The outlook for domestic rice production remains favourable as PFJ and irrigation schemes continue to pay off. Under the projections for the PFJ programme, the area under rice cultivation in Ghana will increase to 260,000 ha by 2020, up from the current 239,340 ha. Additionally, while 30,000 ha of the current area under rice cultivation in Ghana was covered by PFJ in 2017, there are official plans to increase coverage to 124,628 ha in 2018 and then to 198,380 ha in 2019. If the results displayed in 2017 continue throughout the programme, officials expect to yield significant increases in rice output.
Similarly, the continued expansion of area under irrigation is expected to increase the output per hectare of rice. While poor farm mechanisation and improper post-harvesting facilities have posed a challenge to the mostly smallholder farmers in the country and led to high wastage rates, government efforts to modernise and improve production are expected to alleviate these issues. With demand for rice expected to grow in the coming years, it will be necessary to sustain the rice production gains that were seen between 2013 and 2017, in order to turn Ghana into a food-secure, rice-producing country.
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