Rice Farmers in the Upper East and North East regions have called on the government to, as a matter of urgency, create market linkages for large quantities of rice being produced this year to avoid post-harvest losses and increase the income levels of smallholder farmers.
They said although rice was being produced in the rice valleys in the two areas which could feed the whole nation, access to markets and good prices continued to elude them.
The rice farmers made the call at Yagaba in the Mamprugu-Moagduri District of the North East Region during a rice sector dialogue forum organised by the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) with funding from the International Budget Partnership.
During the meeting, the rice farmers resolved not to sell their rice below GH¢1.50 per one kilogramme and GH¢250 per 180 kilogrammes this year.
Some participants at the event
The Head of Programmes and Advocacy of the PFAG, Mr. Charles Nyaaba, for his part, noted that as a result of the lack of access to markets last year, farmers could not sell their produce to rake in the needed revenue but instead sold them at giveaway prices.
Many farmers also recorded post-harvest losses through bushfires and the lack of storage facilities, while the increase in the prices of inputs and service of farm implements had made some farmers unable to produce to full capacity. Others did not engage in large scale farming.
Mr. Nyaaba said last year, it took several months for farmers to be paid for their produce, while others were yet to receive their payments.
The situation ,coupled with other production costs, was having a toll on the rice farmers which needed government’s immediate intervention, he said.
He observed that due to the situation faced by rice farmers last year and the government’s inability to honour its promise to buy the rice, Avnash, one of their major buyers, took advantage of them to buy the rice at GH¢1.30 per one kilogramme.
“We are willing and ready to supply rice to meet the consumption needs of Ghanaians but we are not happy the policy makers are not coming in to help us,” he further stated.
PFJ support, increased production
Mr. Nyaaba explained that due to the support from the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme, farmers in the rice valleys were able to increase production beyond what was produced last year and, therefore, urged other buyers to express interest to negotiate with the farmers for the produce.
He appealed to government to support companies which were willing to buy the rice in any form, and also enable them purchase the rice at good prices to help keep farmers to be in business.
“We are disappointed that Avnash, which is our major buyer and the minister, failed to come to the negotiation table when we invited them.
So, if we do not hear any good news from the rice buyers by the close of this week and the government does not intervene, we are going to mount a serious demonstration.
“We will block the roads and we are going to continue until December 7, and we will not allow any politician to come here and campaign and we are not going to vote,” the PFAG Programmes and Advocacy Head threatened.
The National President of the PFAG, Mr. Abdul-Rahman Mohammed, indicated that more than 800 farmers were engaged with most of them being smallholder vulnerable women farmers who needed support to increase production.
“We do not want the government to wait and when our produce is consumed by bushfire, they will come to compensate us. If we do not sell the rice in the next two weeks, we are likely to lose 50 per cent of them,” he added.
The engagement brought together stakeholders in the rice value chain, including rice farmers from the Fumbisi, Gbelembisi, Wiesi, Nasia, Tono, Yagaba, Kubori and Vea valleys, among others.
The engagement was to afford the rice farmers and producers the opportunity to dialogue and negotiate with the major buyers on the pricing and mode of purchase to ensure mutual benefits.
It also brought together other stakeholders and representatives from the Builsa South and Mamprugu-Moagduri district assemblies, the Upper East and North East Regional Directorate of the Department of Agriculture, the National Food Buffer Stock Company, the Ghana Commodity Exchange and the Integrated Water and Agriculture Development (IWAD) among others.