The campaign for the consumption of local rice spearheaded by Citi FM and Citi TV, paid off for dealers in Ghana rice particularly during the just ended festive season.
Some have told Citi Business News they recorded higher sale volumes than they have in any given period.
Rice is considered the second most important grain food in Ghana, next to maize.
It accounts for 58 percent of the country’s cereal imports. With its consumption in 2017 and 2018 estimated at 1 million megatonnes, the government expects that the annual per capita consumption will reach 40 kilogrammes this year.
Dependency on foreign rice is a phenomenon that is a source of worry for many especially in Ghana. This phenomenon started increasing steadily in the 1980s, but now accounts for more than 70% of local consumption.
According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana spends almost over a billion dollars on rice importation annually since 2015.
Government has however through a number of interventions put in place measures to curb the situation and increase local production. Also, substantial investments in local rice production have been made, but it is still not able to keep up with the growing demand.
Citi FM and Citi TV’s campaign in November 2019 was considered timely, as local rice consumption reportedly increased in December during the festive season. This was evident at the stations’ maiden Christmas Made in Ghana Fair at the Aviation Social Centre in Accra.
But beyond the Christmas season boom and the media campaign, what are these local companies doing to sustain the gains so far?
For local rice producers Wienco Ghana, producers of Aduanehene rice, they sold over 40,000 bags within the festive season; the highest they have ever sold in any given period; thanks to the campaign.
They want stakeholders to help them to sustain the campaign, while they also take steps to equip their farmers to produce to meet demand.
“This year, we plan to expand the farmer base because these farmers sometimes don’t get the benefit of working together as a group. So, we are engaging more with them and hope to expand the farmer base whiles we expand on our production,” Communications Officer, Sylvester Kwame Osei said.
He further called on government to subsidize the cost of utility to help them increase production.
“The mills we have use electricity to add value to the rice. The bills we get are mostly high, so as private sector contributing to national development, it will really be good if government in all of its considerations can give some form of subsidy on utility to help us produce more,” he added.
Their call was echoed by Yaa Baby Rice which wants government to fulfill its promise of investing in the sector.
“The campaign really helped boost our sales from about 50 – 100% of what we normally sell. We run out of stock. We couldn’t even supply to all our customers. We sold about 10,000 bags which exceeded our previous sales. We are equipping ourselves with warehousing systems to meet demand,” Manager of Yaa Baby Rice, Irene Kumi Adams said.
“We want government to help the farmers with fertilizer and farming equipment. When the rice is grown, even where to get harvesters for harvesting is a big problem. We are pleading with government to provide more equipment and milling machines to enable them produce more,” she added.
Convener for the Rice Millers Association, Yaw Adu-Poku, told Citi Business News efforts are underway to assist farmers to sustain the demand and supply as the campaign has simmered down.
He noted that talks are already far advanced in securing funds with the Ghana Commercial Bank, the National Investment Bank, Barclays Bnak and the Agricultural Development Bank, to provide funds for the rice millers at an affordable rate.
“This is an ongoing process. We have been talking to the banks, even today, we had our first preliminary meeting where banks were represented. We are still working on it; but we are saying that, there should be a holistic approach from government’s end.”
“The banks are commercial entities, so they need to do their homework well before they go into lending. We are still engaging with them, though we have not received any facilities from them as at now. I am talking to ADB and in the next few days something concrete will come out,” he said.