By: Reuben Quainoo
Rice is one of the staple foods in Ghana and is used to prepare different kinds of dishes. It is usually the dominant food on the menu of most restaurants and roadside eateries in the county.
As such, there is a high demand for the crop in the crop in the country and in the sub-region in general.
However, the country is unable to produce enough to meet the local demands and has to import to make up for the shortfall.
Even though Ghana produces rice, the level of production has not been able to match with the demand and there are many issues militating against the local production of the commodity.
Aside from the climate playing a role in the low production of rice in Ghana, the farmers also lack the required technology and seedlings adaptable to the climate.
According to a Research Associate with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Dr. Paul Boadu, the CSIR- Crop Research Institute is in the process of developing a GM rice variety called Newest rice, which, is been engineered to have nitrogen use and water use efficiency traits as well as a salt-tolerant trait.
The new rice variety is also drought-resistant and suitable for the two agricultural climates of the country.
“Rice is one of the major food staples consumed in Ghana with consumption outstripping domestic production and 66% of rice consumed being imported,” he said.
He indicated that government of Ghana imports rice to the tune of $151m to $1.2bn primarily from Thailand, Vietnam, and India.
“There is a cultural preference in Ghana for imported rice, as it is seen as being better quality” he added.
Sharing his views on Ghana’s Rice Sector, Challenges Smallholder farmers are facing and the role of modern technology in improving Agricultural productivity and livelihood, Dr. Boadu said adopting this rice would offer a lot of benefits to farmers as their incomes would improve whiles consumers also pay less for the commodity as prices would reduce.
He said an economic assessment by a research consultant showed that the country would gain GHȼ 230 million annually if she adopted the nitrogen efficient rice as the crop was drought resistant and utilized its nitrogen from the atmosphere making it to do well.
“We observe that most of the rice produced in the country is lowland rice but due to climate change and effects of drought, they are not able to do well but the nitrogen efficient rice is actually a highland rice that does well in lowland areas as well,” he said.
Professor Walter Alhassan, Former Director-General of CSIR said the nitrogen efficient rice variety is good to revolutionize the country’s agricultural sector urging government to adopt them as part of the Planting for Food and Jobs programme to help boost food production and nutrition of the people.
According to a report released last week by Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, farmers who planted genetically modified (GM) crops increased their incomes by almost $19 billion in 2018 and reduced carbon emissions by 23 billion kilograms or the equivalent of removing 15.3 million cars from the roads that year.
The report adds that the higher income represents $4.42 in extra income for each extra dollar invested.
“GM crop technology continues to make an important contribution to reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture and securing global food supplies in a sustainable way. It has also helped lift many small, resource-poor farmers and their families in developing countries out of poverty” said Graham Brookes.
The Director-General of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Dr. Kodjo Essien Mensah-Abrampa said that the NDPC is developing a policy document on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for Ghana’s agriculture sector.
He indicated that the long-term policy document on GMOs will be launched in the coming months.
“Anywhere agriculture has developed in the world, you have excellent crop biotechnology policy” he added.