The Crop Research Institute (CRI) at Fumesua near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region is developing new rice varieties which are high-yielding and resistant to common pests and diseases in a bid to improve domestic rice production.
The new varieties include AgraRice, CRI-Amankwatia and Gbewaa rice (Jasmine 85). Some of the new breeds have already been commercially released and many more are undergoing field tests in various parts of the country.
The new varieties can yield up to 8 metric tonnes per hectare compared to the current average production rate of around 2.5. They are also among those preferred by consumers such as long grain, perfume rice that cooks soft.
“The rationale behind the new development is to help make the rice industry in Ghana competitive in terms of production and marketability. With a yield difference of about 5 tonnes per hectare, the new varieties have a great potential to bridge the gap between local production and importation,” Dr. Maxwell Darko Asante, a rice breeder said.
Due to the high demand for rice in the country, particularly the perfumed variety, many people have found rice importation a lucrative venture and are massively importing from a wide range of sources around the world. It is estimated that annually Ghana imports between US$200million and US$400million worth of rice.
The rice breeder said the rice industry required premium government investment to address the challenges impeding its development, adding: “Government support has been limited. Organisations/projects such the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), JICA the Feed the Future project, among others have been supporting rice research in Ghana”.
He indicated that lack of investment in the rice industry over the years has translated into inadequate supply of required machines (tractors, power-tillers, threshers, dryers and modern milling equipment). Scarce entrepreneurs’ focus on marketing locally-produced rice coupled with poor processing by farmers has also compounded the industry’s woes.
Dr Asante urged farmers to maintain the quality of grain at harvest by milling with modern machines to avoid poor appearance; and improving marketing (bagging, branding and advertising) to make domestic rice more competitive.