GHANA – Ghana’s rice imports are expected to dwindle as the country proposes plans to increase its domestic production during the 2017/18 crop season, according to a report by USDA.

The report said that growth in production could be attributed to several factors including favourable conditions that would allow production in large quantities and at the same time giving value for the produce.

Production would also be stepped up following a commitment from the government of Ghana to avail improved, high yielding and disease resistant varieties and introduction of strategies that would ensure efficient water use at low costs.

USDA noted that although the sector could still be faced with many challenges, rice production was forecasted at 450,000 tonnes in 2017/18, an increase from 390,000 tonnes realized in the year 2016/17.

On the other hand, rice imports are forecast at 550,000 tonnes in 2017-18, down from 580,000 tonnes in 2016-17.

Ghana is supplied with rice mainly from Thailand, Vietnam and India with the US forming a smaller share of the market.

According to the USDA report, traders perceive the United States as a reliable supplier of premium quality rice but they have increasingly turned to Asian rice, particularly Thai jasmine rice, whose quality image has improved substantially and is highly prized by consumers.

US reported a decline in market share for rice in 2014 upon the entry of Thai jasmine rice despite endless efforts put in place to save this fraction of the market share.

“There is also increased promotional activity of Thai origin brands of rice on radio, TV and billboards.

Thai aromatic rice is becoming the preferred rice of those shopping in the ‘quality’ segment of the market, chosen for its special taste (60% of consumers buy aromatic rice because of its taste).

High-end restaurants and eateries rely heavily on Thai aromatic rice to deliver quality and taste to their customers,” said the USDA report.

National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS) in collaboration with the government have come out strongly to reverse the country’s import-dependence norm by providing extension services, stabilized prices as well as an intervention into staple markets such as maize and rice.

The rice production sector received a boost in 2015 with US$4.9 million funding to enhance domestic production.

To increase productivity, 200mega tonnes of improved rice seed were distributed to 10,000 farmers through the Enhanced Access to Quality Rice Seed Initiative in various regions in the country.

Local rice production continues to receive support not limited to tractors, power tillers, rice threshers, rice reapers and rice mills.