Rice Millers in the Northern Region are calling for credit support to help upgrade their equipment in order to meet the growing demand for local rice.
An ongoing campaign for the consumption of Ghana Rice has increased demand locally especially as the yuletide approaches. But the millers say to meet the quantity and the quality needs; they require efficient equipment to produce the rice.
Currently, there are 315 millers spread across the country. Out of this number, only ten are certified to have the full complement of equipment to process grade A rice to match imported brands.
Majority of the mills are small- and medium-scale single pass, rubber roller mills with the capacity to process just 500 metric tonnes per month.
Most of these rice mills process par boiled rice due to limited equipment.
As the campaign for the consumption of local rice intensifies, Ghanaians are now craving for more Ghana rice.
But the millers fear they might not be able to meet the demand due to their limitations. Priscilla Akoto Bamfo, a rice processor, said “currently, we have a target of producing just about 500 bags of rice every month. However, the demand is huge, and we need to adjust to meet the demand. It requires financing. We don’t have sufficient financing to be able to buy from the farmers in large volumes to be able to process and sell to the market. We have a great opportunity but it also requires more resources to meet the demand that the customers are giving us, so definitely we need more machinery to be able to give customers the quality they desire.”
Aside from this, the millers say the low moisture content in the paddy rice supplied by farmers is affecting their business as some lose up to 90 per cent of their investments.
Memunatu Alhassan, another Rice Processor, attributed this to the lack of combine harvesters and other machinery to harvest the rice in the right way.
“The mill is a chain. From elevator to destoner, and destoner to the mill and from the mill to a grader. But currently we don’t have a grader so we do manual grading, and I have assigned two of my women to be doing it just to improve in the quality. We need a colour sorter, a machine that takes out the foreign materials, and then improves in the quality and also can turnover our work because with manual sorting, you can do 100 bags, but with a machine, you can do 1,000 bags. So in terms of large quantity, the quality is poor. If you come to us to supply you, to be frank, we can’t sort out everything before we do the bagging”.
The Project Manager for the Ghana AGRA Rice Project, Ebo Graham, however says government is in talks with financial institutions to provide credit facilities for the rice millers to upgrade their factories to produce more to meet local demand.
“Currently, we are negotiating and having discussions with the banks. These are private sector initiatives so the banks need bankable business plans for them to work with, and also good off taker agreements and also for the millers to upgrade their mills to meet the demand. There are other risks in the system that we’ve encouraged the banks to look at for them to be able to support these millers. When it comes to collateral issues, some of the millers will find it difficult meeting them; but these are banks are also being a bit sensitive to the national call about the rice gaps in the system”.