…to meet international standards
From William N-lanjerborr Jalulah
THE MINISTER of Food and Agriculture, Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi, has tasked Ghanaian farmers, especially, rice farmers in the North, to produce quality rice, not only for local consumption, but also to meet international standards.
Recalling the good old days in the past General Kutu Acheampong’s regime, when Northern Ghana was noted for its rice production, the Minister said governments that previous governments did not put in much assistance in local rice production, as is the case today.
Speaking at Sandema in the Builsa District of the Upper East Region on Tuesday, during the launch of a Farmer’s Business Book, Mr. Ahwoi said the government had decided that Ghanaians cannot continue to spend hard earned foreign exchange in importing rice from Thailand, India, Brazil, Pakistan and China, when the country has large and fertile lands for rice production.
He said the country spends about $800,000 annually on importing rice from these countries. This money, he noted, could have been used to help lift the lives of Ghanaians if the people can replace rice with the crops they grow, and change the taste of the people to accept the local rice, by ensuring that quality rice is produced and processed.
“If stones are not in the rice, if the foreign objects are not in the rice and the taste is good, Ghanaians will buy it. I might say that right now many Ghanaians are looking for the local rice, but they cannot find it,” the Minister stated.
According to him, with the experience of the Acheampong regime, when many farmers became rich, the government was committed to encouraging and supporting farmers to go into rice farming, so as to make them rich.
Mr. Ahwoi said in order to address the lack of markets for farm produce, the government had set up a company called the National Food Buffer Stock Company, which will buy food produce from farmers if they do not get markets, so that they can recover production costs.
He said the Nasia Rice Mill in the North, which had been abandoned for the past eight years, had been revamped. The mill is owned by the Barclays, National Investment, and Agriculture Development banks.
Questioning the people as to what their benefit would be if after toiling to cultivate the rice, they allow it to be destroyed by bushfires, the Food and Agriculture Minister told them they had the responsibility of ensuring that they minimise the dangers of bushfires.
While calling on the chiefs, elders and opinion leaders to sensitise their people to be circumspect when handling fires during this season of hammattan, Mr. Ahwoi also advised the farmers to protect their farms against bushfires to avoid losses.
Launching the book, Mr. Ahwoi said it was to help farmers take stock of their farming businesses, and record their business transactions exactly as businessmen and women do. According to him, record keeping by farmers has been a major problem, but in modernized agriculture, where farming is a business, the farmer must have credit records, farm management records, and training records.
Describing the Farmer’s Business Book as holistic, the sector minister explained that it captures the bio-data of the farmer, the year, the year by year production, sales and income, credit and repayment records, as well as their other farm businesses such as livestock.
Mr. Ahwoi said the book was friendly to both literate and illiterate farmers, and urged the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP), and regional and district directors of agriculture to ensure that farmers get to know the usefulness of the book.
The National Coordinator of the Northern Rural Growth Programme, Mr. Roy Ayariga, observed that the construction of dams for irrigation purposes was very expensive, and said under the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), the Builsa district benefited from a number of dams.
He said his outfit would monitor how those dams are being used by farmers, and if they are encouraged, something would be done to construct more.
However, if they do not maintain them, they would be denying others who do not have the dams, the chance to benefit from the IFAD assistance.
Mr. Ayariga urged farmers who want water pumps, combine harvesters and other farm implements to form groups and apply to the banks for financial support.
He said if the banks were ready to sponsor the farmers, they will be required to bring 10% of the money, NRGP will come in with 40% assistance, while the banks give 50%. The farmers will then pay the interest on only the 50%.
The District Chief Executive for Builsa, Mr. Nobert Awule, appealed to the Agric Minister to de-silt all the old dams and construct more new ones in the district, to encourage more people to go into dry season farming.