Vice President Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur on Wednesday commissioned a mill for the processing of paddy rice at Sogakope in the South Tongu District of the Volta Region.
The mill which has the capacity to process more than three million tonnes of rice, is a joint venture established by the Global Agriculture Development Company (GADCO), a rice producing company and Copa Connect, which is GADCO’s small-holder initiative, with support from Finatrade Sa Ghana Limited, a rice marketing company.
The Vice President commended the community’s spirit of partnership that led to the growth of the rice project which covered about 2000 acres of land, and which provided employment for about 10,000 people.
He gave the assurance that the Government would support the project for it to become a model across the country.
Mr Clement Kofi Humado, the Minister of Agriculture observed that hitherto rice from the area had to be sent to other mills for processing, adding that the partnership with Finatrade would provide ready market for the rice.
He spoke of the potential of agri-business to generate jobs, adding that that the large scale rice cultivation coupled with the establishment of the mill would enhance the contribution of rice to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
Mr Humado assured the rice farmers that the Ministry would continue to facilitate their activities by proving the enabling environment for the private sector to really become the engine of growth.
Mrs Helen Ntoso, the Volta Regional Minister spoke of the income-generating capability of the project, and called for all efforts to sustain it.
Togbega Agama IV, the Paramount Chief of the Fievie Traditional Area, in whose traditional jurisdiction the project is located, said the support of the Traditional Area to the project was in line with the vision of President John Mahama for the nation to become self-sufficient in the production of rice and sugar, among others, to significantly improve the economy.
He stressed the need for the rice project, as well as others that had already been established, to be sustained even if there is a change of government.
Mr Nabil Moukarzel, the Executive Chairman of the Finatrade SA Ghana Limited, said Finatrade had worked for 14 years now in the production, marketing and distribution of local rice.
He appealed to the Government to support local rice producers with a tax incentive policy and institute a penalty system for non-compliant importers of foreign rice.
Mr Moukarzel suggested what he called a “Rice Master Matching Fund” that would seek to make interventions in the areas of working capital for inputs, equipment and mechanization, research and development, irrigation schemes, small farmer training, technical assistance funding and off-take agreement, to strengthen the local rice industry.
Mr Toks Abimbola, a co-founder of the project, said it involved transfer of technology from Brazil, and expressed the hope that Ghana would become self-sufficient in rice production by 2018.
The Vice President and his delegation undertook a tour of some of the farms and the mill facilities at the Brazil Agro-Business Group at Dabala Kpenu.