Dalex Finance and Leasing Company has disbursed GH¢5 million credit to over 10,000 rice farmers in Brong Ahafo and the three regions of the north.
The funds will be used to provide farming inputs, including fertilisers, improved seeds, tractor and combined harvester services for the farmers who mostly cultivate brown rice, considered a healthier alternative.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DALEX Finance and Leasing Company, Mr Kenneth Kwamina Thompson, who announced this at a press conference in Accra yesterday, said the intervention was in collaboration with the Shinkaafa Buni Rice Farmers Association.
Mr Thompson was upbeat that DALEX had found a profitable and sustainable model for funding smallholder farmers who, he stressed, were the bedrock of the country’s agricultural sector.
The CEO called on financial institutions to invest in agriculture to support farmers in order to increase local rice production in the country, saying: “We want to encourage other financial institutions to go into agriculture. Agriculture is the sector in the country which is competitive. So if you want to do business in Ghana, start with agriculture,” he said.
The accountant and business executive called on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to expedite action to avert the looming disaster posed by army worm invasion.
He stated that the invasion had been reported in the Eastern, Brong Ahafo, Ashanti and Western regions and had destroyed more than 5,870 hectares of maize, cowpea and cocoa since last year.
“The effects of these pests could be worse than the biblical plague of locust if unchecked,” he added.
The Dalex rice farmer credit programme delivers credit to farmers over the institution’s mobile financial technology (FinTech) platform, called DALEX SWIFT. The SWIFT platform gives subscribers access to investment and savings services.
Farmers receive their payments through mobile money with which they make deposits into their investment accounts. It also gives them real-time access to their account balances, with a call centre support.
The Chairman of Shinkaafa Buni and Northern Regional Head of Avnash Industries, Mr Akshay Sharma, decried the high interest on agricultural loans in the country and called on the government to intervene for farmers to access loans at cheaper costs.
He observed that marketing brown rice in Ghana was challenging, since Ghanaians patronised imported polished rice.
“To market brown rice in a white rice market is a challenge so government can open up state institutions such as school feeding programme, schools and colleges, prisons, hospitals and the military to keep reference to the local rice rather than eating the white rice which is imported,” he said.
According to him, another challenge is the milled local paddy, which is more expensive as compared to the imported ones on the market.
“The yields per acre achieved by the farmers in Ghana generally is as low as 800 kilogrammes per acre compared to a minimum of 2.4 tonnes per acre internationally. This means the price of local rice is as a result uncompetitive, in comparison with imported rice,” he added.
The Executive Director of Shinkaafa Buni Rice Farmers Association, Mr Samuel Sarpong, said the association was formed to bring together farmers and help them to increase production.
“We believe that rice has so much worth as compared to other commodities. We eat a lot of rice here in Ghana and we have a big mill in Tamale and for five years, they have been struggling to get paddy, which is also of good quality to process,” he said.
He added that the partnership with DALEX was part of its mission to develop sustainable models of finance to assist the smallholder farmer, adding: “It has been good so far.”