FOR many years, governments have failed to turn round the fortunes of rice production in the country in spite of the many strategies adopted in that direction.
To a large extent, the failure is attributed to the lack of pragmatic policies, the large importation of large quantities of the commodity by influential people in government and their cronies to compete with the local produce, among other things.
Another major factor has to do with the appointment of persons with no commitment, knowledge and good intent to implement programmes meant to transform the sector. This worrying phenomenon has stifled progress to an extent that the millions of Ghana cedis sunk into projects are not yielding results.
It is against this background that former Member of Parliament (MP) in the Twifo Atti Morkwa Constituency in the Central Region, Abraham Dwuma Odoom, has said that the transformation of the agriculture sector was largely dependent on the kind of people who are selected to lead projects in the sector.
He said the sector required people with passion and perseverance to lead projects and programmes.
“Not until we have identified people who have passion, perseverance, commitment and selflessness to pursue these things, we will go back and forth with projects always because people are only interested in sitting allowances and taking tea. They are not interested in beyond the averages,’” he said in an interview with Graphic Business on Wednesday, June 1, 2022 in Accra.
Mr Odoom, who is touted as the Ghanaian policy advisor behind the Nigeria rice production boom, emphasised that to be able to transform the agriculture sector, it would require greater commitment on the side of policy implementers to succeed.
“We need to look at rice, the other cereals and poultry. I don’t call the things that are done in the agriculture sector as interventions when people are only interested in project allowances. When I was in Nigeria, it was not the project allowance that was motivating me. What was motivating me was getting Africa out of rice importation, period!” he said.
Bridging the gap
Ghana struggles with a huge rice deficit estimated to be around 50 per cent of total need.
Nigeria produced nine million metric tonnes (MT) in 2021, out of a deliberate policy plan implemented at least over the last seven years to increase production of the rice to meet local demand of about seven million MT per year.
Mr Odoom said it was possible to replicate the Nigeria example here if the factors were right.
He said that the major setback in Ghana’s case was the model being used –the Ghana Rice Inter Professional Body (GRIB), model, a national umbrella organisation of rice stakeholders with the goal of working towards a competitive local rice.
“Why is it that Ghana is not successful? It is because of the approach that we are using. The GRIB is like a Ministry of Agriculture project that has been upgraded but the Nigerian one was privately led,” he said.
“The reorganisation, the reorientation, the readiness and especially the highest corporation of the central bank and the right decision the bank took. They were spending about $6 billion on importation of rice so just imagine how much they have saved,” he said.
He inferred that Ghana was selected for the Competitive Africa Rice Initiative (CARI), implemented under the Cut Hunger and Poverty Foundation of the Michigan State University (MSU), in partnership with the Kufuor Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but that had not been successful in bridging the deficit because the methodology was not working.
“CARI has come and gone and still Ghana is where it is. So, why don’t we eat the humble pie and turn it? They might have chalked up some success in terms of standardisation, among other things, but the method that they are using and the human factors over there will not help Ghana achieve what we expect,” he said.
He said: “I won’t say I was 100 per cent correct though but we can pick a good aspect of it and then we come up with a blueprint so that every African state can use it and get out of shortfalls.”
As the policy advisor to the project in Nigeria, even with no formal agricultural background, led by the Central Bank of Nigeria, his contribution is being celebrated for providing technical support and direction for the programme that could be a blueprint for other African countries towards food self-sufficiency.