An inception mid-tern review international workshop of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), dubbed: “Strengthening Agricultural Statistics and Food Security Information in Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) countries,” is underway in Accra.
The two-day workshop is being attended by participants from CARD member countries such as Ghana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Nigeria.
The workshop, which is being organised by the FAO in collaboration with Ghana, seeks to afford participants the opportunity to share ideas and knowledge on improved rice production practices.
Mr Abebe Haile-Gabriel, the FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Africa, said rice consumption in Africa was growing faster than that of any other major staple food crops.
“Currently, various kinds of efforts have been made in the development of the rice sector aimed at boosting production through improving productivity, market efficiency and viable partnerships along the rice value chain,” he said.
He said one of the significant efforts in this regards was the CARD initiative aimed at doubling rice production in 10 years up to 2018, which was advocated during the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV).
He said the Strengthening Agricultural Statistics and Food Security Information in CARD countries through South-South Co-operation was formulated in 2014, and had contributed to improving the capacity of CARD countries for timely collection and provision of reliable statistics on rice production.
He noted that the project had been drawing from experiences and know-how from the Association of South-East Asian nations (ASEAN) under the FAO’s South-South Cooperation Scheme.
“The FAO considers South-South Co-operation as an important mechanism for the achievement of its strategy framework,” Mr Haile-Gabriel said.
“Many developing countries face similar challenges in food security and agricultural and rural development, and in many cases, the geographic, climatic and socioeconomic conditions are similar. This makes it easier to adapt successful experiences to local realities.”
He explained that much of the technologies and capacities needed in developing countries already exist somewhere.
He said there were lots of benefits, which should be shared, transferred and disseminated.
“As countries share and exchange development solutions, they will be able to co-learn, co-innovate and co-develop and or improve mutually relevant and sustainable technologies.”
He said the FAO played the role of facilitating and connecting countries and institutions that had proven development solutions to exchange and share with countries in need of such solutions.
Mr Haile-Gabriel noted that since 1996, the FAO had been facilitating South-South Co-operation programme and had fielded more than 1,800 experts and technicians in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia and the Latin America and the Caribbean and the Near East.
Mr Kaoru Yoshimura, the Japanese, said one of the priority areas of his country’s assistance to Ghana was agriculture, which was the backbone of the Ghanaian economy.
“Japan focuses its assistance on increasing the productivity and profitability of small-scale rice farmers and strengthening extension system of rice-cultivation technology utilising its expertise in this field,” he said.
He said Japan also helped Ghana to promote large-scale production and commercialisation by upgrading production basis and distribution system.
He commended the efficacy of the co-operation between the FAO and the Japan International Co-operation Agency.
Mr Benjamin K. Gyasi, the Acting Chief Director, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, said rice had become one of the most important food staples in Ghana.
He said demand for rice had followed an upward trend over a decade, as a result of population growth, urbanisation and changing consumer habits.
“Although local production of paddy rice has increased from 302,000 metric tonnes in 2008 to 688,000 metric tonnes in 2016, local supply had been trailing behind demand.
Government had to rely on imports to address this shortfall,” he said.
He said in 2016 for instance, 689,000 metric tonnes of rice was imported into the country, amounting to approximately 300 million dollars.