Ghana can achieve self-sufficiency in rice production within a decade, Dr Maxwell D. Asante, Deputy Director/Rice Breeder, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research–Crops Research Institute (CSIR-CRI), has said.
He reiterated that current and upcoming rice varieties provide a great opportunity for Ghana to achieve rice self-sufficiency.
He said, however, that the yield gap between these varieties and the average yields on farmers’ fields had to be bridged through land development, water and nutrient management, reduction in post-harvest losses and mechanization of activities along the value chain.
“If the necessary investments are made into National Rice Development Strategy, (which takes into consideration the whole value chain), rice self-sufficiency can be achieved within a decade,” Dr Asante said in his presentation at a three-day high-level consultative meeting in Accra.
The meeting, organised by the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, sought to develop a compelling case for investments in the value chains of rice, maize, soybean, cowpea, cassava and tomato for the development of agribusinesses for food security and socio-economic development in Ghana.
Speaking on the topic “Achieving rice self-sufficiency in Ghana: A case for investment into the rice value chain in Ghana”, Dr Asante said the current demand for milled rice in Ghana was 1,330,000 metric tonnes (MT); adding that local production was 622,000 MT of milled rice (i.e. 987,000 MT of paddy cultivated over an area of 311,000 ha) making Ghana 47 per cent self-sufficient.
“Consequently, we spend between $200 to $500 million on rice imports per annum. The current average yield is 3.2 MT/ha.”
He indicated that about 274,000 hectare (ha) of rainfed lowland was currently under cultivation, and some estimate indicates that about 4 million ha of rainfed lowland was unexploited.
He said for Ghana to achieve self-sufficiency by 2024 (Ministry of Food and Agriculture target) – an average yield had to increase from 3.2 to 5.5 MT/ha and the area under cultivation had to increase from 311,000 to 500,000 hectares.
With regards to constraints to achieving rice self-sufficiency, Dr Asante mentioned poor seed distribution system, poor land development, poor water management, drought, poor soil fertility, poor fertilizer management, and pests and diseases.
Others are poor grain quality, very low mechanization, illegal mining activities (galamsey)/real estate development, the low turnout of superior varieties, inadequate modern rice mills and poor branding.
The Deputy Director reiterated that interventions and investments were required to achieve rice self-sufficiency.
He said the national rice development strategy- thematic areas include seed systems, fertilizer marketing and distribution system, harvesting, post-harvest and marketing, irrigation and water control, equipment access and maintenance and community mobilization.
He said CSIR-Crops Research Institute had produced a new variety of rice – CRI-Enapa, which had a more stable yield because it was tolerant to drought, low nitrogen and diseases and could thus increase the national average yield 0.5-1 MT
Dr Asante recommended that CRI-AgraRice be replaced with CRI-Enapa in rainfed lowlands, which were prone to drought and disease stresses.
He also advocated the need for the training of extension officers and farmers in good agricultural practices, which would go a long way to help realize the potential of improved varieties and increase the national average yields by another 1 MT.
Touching on the support required for breeding, Dr Asante said: “For sustainable production and competitiveness of Ghana’s rice industry, we have to develop new climate-smart, Jasmine-styled rice varieties to replace older ones. This will require about $100,000 per year for the next five years.”