Rice millers in the country were unable to meet the demand for milled local rice during the Christmas and New Year festivities due to financial constraints.
According to them, they had the capacity to mill but they lacked the funds to buy adequate quantities of the paddy rice for milling.
Some of the rice millers the Daily Graphic interviewed noted that until recently, people did not believe in the local rice and for that matter, those in the value chain did not get any financial support.
The Chief Executive Officer of Digo Farms at New Longoro in the Bono East Region, Mr Yaw Adu Poku, explained that the rush for the local rice came at a short notice and local millers could not measure up because “we did not have the financial muscles to meet the demand”.
“Some of us worked 24/7 during the period and as we milled, people who placed orders were standing by to take delivery.
“To tell you the truth, the ministry has made enemies for us because friends and families were made to understand that they would get their local rice at their doorstep during the festivities and when we were not able to meet the demands, people got angry with us that we denied them of local rice,” he told the Daily Graphic.
Mr Poku said the demand was overwhelming, but stressed that it was not that the rice millers were not up to the task, but that the millers were not adequately prepared for the season.
He said the marketers that the government was trying to bring on board were a bit apprehensive as to the outcome of the local rice in the mainstream.
“The little that we had was what we brought to the market and everything that we milled was picked up, not even a grain was left,” Mr Poku stated.
He expressed the hope that the ministry would intervene this year to enable the millers to bridge the gap.
Mr Poku gave an assurance that the local millers had the capacity to mill all the paddy rice in the country, citing that his company, for example, had the capacity to mill 156 tonnes a day.
“That means we can process an excess of 100 tonnes a day, bringing onto the market a minimum of 60 to 70 tonnes a day, which translates into about two articulated trucks a day,” he said.
The factory is currently operating at about 18 per cent capacity, he said.
Mr Poku also indicated that the producer of the local Mr Rabbit Long Grain Rice had the capacity to produce 50 tonnes a day but was currently producing at half capacity.
The Executive Chairman of Strongmen Foods and Farms Ltd at Akuse in the Greater Accra Region, Mr Michael Darko, corroborated with Mr Poku, saying the financial institutions lacked confidence in local rice millers, but gave an assurance that the days when local produce was considered inferior were long gone.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has embarked on a campaign to get Ghanaians to patronise local rice instead of the imported ones.
Some media houses, mainly Citi FM, have also launched a campaign to support the growing and consumption of local rice.
In December last year, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Owusu Akoto Afriyie, set up a Rice Technical Team made up of rice importers, processors, millers, farmers and representatives of the Ministry of Finance to discuss the way forward on how to reduce the importation of rice in favour of local rice.