riceThe latest development with regards to rice importation policies whereby rice imports have been restricted to Tema, ?Takoradi Ports and Kotoka International Airport only has brought some sanity to an insane situation, but is it enough?

The so-called ?Rice-war? in Ghana is nothing new and has been raging for many years. At the heart of this ?war? lies the fact that Ghana?s local rice industry has for much more than a decade only been able to supply 30% of its local demand.

The solution to such a situation is trade – importation of rice.

The parties on the rice battleground include local rice producers and producer organizations, the Government of Ghana (GOG), rice importers, rice smugglers and most important – Ghanaian consumers.

Food Security Ghana (FSG) has been writing about this war since its inception and its arguments have to this day not changed. These are the arguments that are or will be difficult to dispute.

1. Consumers have the right to choose what they prefer

Stated otherwise, if Ghanaians want quality rice someone will fill that need and Ghanaians will pay for it.

The whole argument by the GoG about self-sufficiency in rice production, irrespective of other considerations, is wrong. Food security is about availability, affordability, nutrition and the preference of the people.

Rice, based on consumer preference, has become a staple food in Ghana. A recent article titled ?Rice fuels change in eating habits as economic growth takes hold? quoted Ghanaian consumers as saying:

?The combination of the fragrance of the rice and the pepper is so attractive. My daughter and I love rice.? and ?Rice is so expensive, but there is no life without rice. It?s so delicious and I don?t need to spend a lot of time and energy cooking it! which is helpful for a working mother.?

If the local rice producers keep on producing low quality rice and importers keep on bringing in high quality rice, consumers will buy according to their preference and there is nothing that the GoG or anybody else can do about it.

2. You can?t create a competitive industry by taxing competitors out of the picture

Stated otherwise, if you have major competitive disadvantages and don?t fix them you will die sooner or later.

The argument by the GoG that excessive high duties on imported rice will help the local industry become competitive is a fallacy!

The growing urban middle-class in Ghana are buying more expensive imported rice. Why? Because it is better!

Competition is not just about pricing.

The local rice industry is plagued by many problems which cannot be fixed with high import duties. The quality is poor, yields are low and input costs are high, to name but a few in a long list of issues that the GoG should address in order to help make the industry viable and competitive.

3. Ostrich management catches up with you

Stated otherwise, if you make a decision that you know will create a future problem but ignore that mistake, you are ?burying? your head in the sand just like an Ostrich.

The decision to create massive tariff differentials on rice imports between Ghana and its neighbour C?te d’Ivoire was the decision that allowed the crime of rice smuggling to flourish on the Western borders of Ghana.

The next decision to do nothing about this massive crime for many years has cost the economy of Ghana billions.

The latest decision to once again address the problem in half measures without addressing the tariff differential problem will also come back to haunt the GoG. Soon we will see real smuggling escalate!

Why? The motivation for massive illegal profits through smuggling lies in the tariff differential and that motivation has not been removed.

Today everybody is talking about the smugglers who slipped through the net. Even if they are caught tomorrow, the issue of smuggling will slip off the radar for a while until another? Anas ?exposes the massive night time smuggling through routes that many people did not even know existed.?

4. Importers are not the enemy, but part of the solution

Ghana today needs problem solvers in positions of power, and much more so in the area of food security. More than that Ghana also needs decisive leaders who work as a team to fix problems and create opportunities. Food security is not only a food and agricultural issue it also involves decisions related to finance, trade, investment and industry.

All countries all over the world have balance sheets that show a surplus in production of certain food items and a deficit in others and these countries fill the deficit by means of trade or importation.

Ghana is no different and those who import rice into Ghana are part of those providing a solution – not the creators of the problem.

At some stage Mr. Kwasi Ahwoi, the previous Minister in charge of Food and Agriculture openly declared ?war? on importers instead of making them part of Ghana?s quest for self-sufficiency in rice production. Many importers would jump at the chance of finding a new source to export rice to other countries.

It is now time that Ghana addresses its Rice production problems by involving all stakeholders and by making decisions that will solve the problem once and for all!

A woman is either expecting a child or not – she cannot be half pregnant. Likewise decisions that half solve problems are not solving problems – they are going to postpone them.

Source: Food Security Ghana

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