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Mahama advises gov’t- Increase rice processing capacity, it will lead to employment, foreign exchange

Former Ghana President John Dramani Mahama has appealed to government to consider agro-processing as a potent economic measure for reviving the country’s flagging economy.

Increasing the processing capacity of local produce, including rice, Mr. Mahama noted, will lead to employment for the youth and also earn foreign exchange for the country.

Speaking at a meeting with the leadership of the Ghana Rice Interprofessional Body, a grouping of local rice producers in his office in Accra, President Mahama said the private sector alone cannot handle the country’s processing needs because they are constrained in terms of resources. He urged government to step in as a matter of necessity, so that the nation can reap the full benefits of not just growing rice but also processing them for consumption and export.

“Government must step in because it is not about growing the rice. It is about providing the processing facility to move the rice from the farm to the market.”

“We have the capacity to be able to produce enough rice to feed ourselves and even to export. But, it means government must come in. The private sector alone cannot raise the resources to do it. I have said several times that we need the capacity to process. If you bring in the capacity to process, the farmers will rise to the occasion. Of course, fertilizers and (related) things are expensive but if they get a fair price for the paddy and the millers get a fair market for processing and selling, it will be a win-win partnership.”

While commending the Planting for Food and Jobs initiative, Mr. Mahama said there is the need to look strategically at some crops for which the country can achieve self-sufficiency, which he said will help the economy.

“Right now, (in terms of) foreign exchange, our cedi is going down, the dollar is going up and that is because of the amount of rice we are importing, the volume of palm oil we are importing, the amount of vegetable oils, the amount of chicken we are importing… we have a comparative advantage to produce these.”

He reminded the farmers of the efforts of his administration to help increase the processing capacity of rice farmers, including getting a Brazilian company to set up a rice mill in the Volta Region and another in Nyankpala. The former president also explained the deliberate policy his government put in place to protect the local poultry industry and save the country foreign exchange.

“As president my aim was to make sure that we increase local production and curtail imports. If you remember in the poultry industry, we put in quotas and we said that you must buy this amount of local chicken before we allow you to import foreign chicken and the importers agreed. So, you must get a local poultry producer to sell that amount of poultry to you before you can import this amount. All that has been abandoned. And now the foreign chicken is coming in huge quantities” he bemoaned.

According to Mr. Mahama, it would take political will, government support and the know-how for the country to get on the right path of protecting the local industry, saving billions of dollars in money that would have been lost through importation, and provide jobs for Ghanaians.

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