Rice has become the second staple food consumed in Ghana after maize. Rice production in Ghana increased from 48,800 tonnes in 1970 to 925,000 tonnes in 2019 growing at an average annual rate of 9.03%. (Ministry of Food and Agriculture,2020). This depicts high potential for growth and production in the domestic rice sector in the country.
In spite of its consumability and potential to boost the economic prospect of the country, rice remains the food crop which the country is food insecure with consumption exceeding domestic production. To augment domestic consumption, the country imports about 66% of rice mainly from Thailand, Vietnam and India.
According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the country imported U$8 billion worth of rice in 2020 to augment the deficit in domestic consumption. This practice does not only negatively affect actors in the rice production value chain domestically but also contract the economic activities of the country while creating jobs and making other economies viable and prosperous. The continuous importation of rice will continue to weaken our domestic currency since importers must buy the US dollar to be able to import. The excessive demand for other people’s currency only renders you valueless and meaningless.
In order to deal with the practice, the government through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture is advocating strongly for the consumption of local rice, as it works to ban the importation of foreign rice by 2022.
To ensure the realization of this directive, the government has made some considerable interventions in the agriculture sector which has resulted in increased production of rice over the years. In 2017, the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme was introduced which requires that farmers pay 50% of the cost of rice seed and fertilizer making it affordable for producers to increase rice production. Under the programme, the subsidized price of a 20kg bag of rice seed is GH¢50.00; the cost of 50kg fertilizers such as NPK 15:15:15, Sulphate of Ammonia and Urea are GH57.50, GH¢60.00 and GH¢47.50 respectively. It is also embarking on the development of rice valleys and irrigation projects across rice producing communities in the country. Rice continues to be grown at the subsistence level under primarily rainfed conditions in the valleys or low lying areas and often employ traditional methods with limited irrigation and mechanization facilities.
Rice is cultivated throughout all the regions of the country. However, the top five production regions are the Volta, Northern, Upper East, Ashanti, and Western. The primary growing seasons are April/May for planting and July/August for harvesting in the case of the Volta, Ashanti and Eastern regions. In the Northern and Upper East regions, farmers will typically cultivate in July/August and harvest in October/November.
There are several challenges facing rice farmers in the northern part of Ghana. However, this article specifically looks at the challenges rice farmers in the Builsa South District of the Upper East region face in accessing combine harvesters to harvest their rice production. The district has a comparative advantage in rice production. It has 2,286 hectares of developed area for rice cultivation. This comprised 866.4 hectors developed by the government and the remaining 1,419.6 hectares developed by individual farmers. The government is currently developing 300 hectors and 500 hectares at Tuedema and Gbedembilisi respectively. The potential production capacity of the district stands at 4,700 hectors.