Ghana: Behavior of Illegal Miners & U.S.$600 Million Rice Import Bill
In his state of Nation address to Parliament in February 2014, President John Dramani Mahama announced that Ghana spent a whopping $1.5 billion on the importation of consumables in 2013. Within the same period, continued the president, the country also lost a staggering $1.3 billion in export revenues as a result of the decline in cocoa and gold prices.
As at the time he was delivering his speech in Parliament (February 2014), the import bill had risen to $17 billion. A breakdown of products imported included rice, sugar, wheat, tomato products, frozen fish, poultry and vegetable cooking oil.
The development occurred at the time the forex holdings stood at a little over $3 billion. The president did not give any break down but it is clear that rice import took a chunk of the quoted figure.
Available statistics indicate that the current import bill on rice stands at US$600 million. During his visit to Scotland early this year, President John Mahama told MPs in the Scottish Parliament that his government was determined to cut down import bill on rice.
“We’ve taken rice from the production of 30% to 60% as I speak and so gradually we’re reducing rice import to Ghana,” President Mahama was quoted by the Business and Financial Times as saying.
According to the Financial Times story, Current rice production hovers around 290,000metric tonnes whilst, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Ghanaians, in 2014, consumed a total of 754,698 metric tonnes of rice, with imports making up 52 per cent. The Chronicle is not least surprised with these statistics because rice has gradually taken over from other traditional foods, as the most staple food in Ghana.
Both the current and previous governments have not been oblivious of this bare facts hence the policies that were put in place to boost the production of rice in Ghana. As a developing country, it is untenable for us to use our scare resources to import rice when the commodity can easily be produced here in Ghana.
The Chronicle is, however, happy with the support from the private sector to boost the production of the staple food locally. From Greater Accra through Volta to the three northern regions, Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions, individuals and institutions have gone into commercial production of rice.
Though their products are not well packaged and properly marketed to attract attention in the country, it is gradually helping the country to cut down on the import bills on rice. It is in the light of this that The Chronicle is alarmed with reports from Ashanti Region that farmlands meant for rice production have been taken over by illegal miners popularly known as ‘galamsey’, who are destroying them.
According to a story we have carried at our business page today, the ‘galamseyers’ are wrecking havoc on rice farms at Asakraka near Adankwame in the Atwima Nwabiagya district. The illegal miners are reportedly extending their tentacles to other areas such as Konongo and communities in the Amasie District.
A farm set up by Institute of Tropical for Agriculture and Africa Rice Centre in the area to support agriculture research and development has not been spared by the illegal miners. Mr. George Acheampong, Acting programs director of the Institute is warning that: “Rice is becoming a staple food in Ghana and if we do not nip these menace in the bud, I am afraid we will lose everything”.
The conduct of the illegal miners, according to Acheampong, could also result in food insecurity in Ghana. This is disturbing news and The Chronicle is advising the political authorities to move in quickly to stop the illegal miners in their tracks. Food shortage is already starring us in the face as a result of the long and severe dry season witnessed by the country this year.
We should, therefore, not do anything that would exacerbate the already precarious situation and that is why the Ministry of Food and Agriculture must move in quickly to quell the threat being posed by the illegal miners. We hope Dr. Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture and his boss, Alhaji Muniru are listening to us.
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