Rice production in Ghana is a fascinating process for all. Located along the tropical region, Ghana is one of the few countries that is more than lucky to have agriculture as the backbone of its economy. The agricultural sector earns the country the bigger part of government revenue, approximately 42%. For this reason, a lot is being done to diversify the sector. Part of this process is the growth of rice production in Ghana.
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Rice is a staple food for most people in the world. Ghana is one of the countries that has shifted its focus to rice production. Rice production in Ghana began in 1957, and since then there is a dietary shift to rice, especially in the urban areas. The shift to rice consumption was associated with increased incomes, eases of cooking, easy storage ability, and favorable pricing policies by the government. Rice production requires favorable conditions such as nutrients, enough rainfall, nutrients, and good management practices. Below is information important for ensuring rice production is successful
History of rice production in Ghana
In the 18th century, rice was a major commercial product for Ghana. Rice production was facilitated by the policy of self-sufficiency that was implemented in 1970 by the government of Ghana. Since then rice has become an essential crop in Ghana. The Northern area of Ghana is the major producer of rice as it accounts for 61% of the total rice produced within the country. Local rice production in Ghana does not meet the annual demand in the country. The country has been importing rice and imports contribute to 50% of rice consumed within the country. It is therefore important to understand the procedure of starting a rice farm in order to increase rice production in the country thus reducing rice imports.
Rice farming in Ghana
The production of rice in Ghana takes place through some stages for it to be successful. The rice farming process is broken down as follows.
1. Site selection
The selection and management of the land to be used in rice farming begin in the fallow period or the previous season before planting starts. When you decide to produce rice, the land selected for the main field or seedbed should not have been planted with different varieties of rice in the proceeding season. The land should permit easy and frequent inspection. The land to be used for the seedbed and the main field should be medium fertile. It should not be too fertile because it will discourage the luxurious growth of the plants. The site should be a low land with a medium deep-water, that is, up to 50 cm water depth. Also, 10-20 cm excess is suitable for rice farming. The area selected should not be experiencing heavy floods. Areas with clay soils are not suitable for rice farming because of the prolonged capacity of water retention. A square or a rectangular shaped field is suitable for rice farming.
2. Land preparation
Land preparation is significant in ensuring that the field to be used in planting rice is ready. A field that is well-prepared controls weeds, provides a soil mass important for transplanting, recycles plant nutrients, and provides a surface that is suitable for proper seeding.
Land preparation covers a wide range of practices from zero-tillage or minimum tillage which minimizes soil disturbance to a totally 'puddled' soil which actually destroys soil structure. Land preparation involves plowing to dig-up or "till", and overturning the soil. It also involves harrowing so as to break the soil clods into smaller particles and incorporate the residue of the plants. Finally, land preparation involves leveling the field. Land preparation for rice farming usually begins during the fallow period or after the last harvest. This is important for controlling weeds and soil enrichment. In most occasions, land preparation takes three weeks before planting begins.
3. Planting material selection
It is important to understand the best rice seeds and this is because good seeds lead to heavier, healthier and higher-yielding seedlings. Also, good seeds produce seedlings that recover very fast from transplanting shock. They also result in a fast root growth, facilitating nutrient intake from the soil. Finally, a good seed produces uniform growth and germination of seedlings, thus making it easy for a farmer to time the management practices such as irrigation, weeding, transplanting, and fertilization. A good rice sample should be genetically pure and this can be achieved by getting the seeds from a reliable source such as the International Agricultural Organization, and the ministry of agriculture. The seed should have a moisture content of not more than 14% because if they are not properly dried they will rote during storage. The seeds should be capable of growing at the rate of 80%. The seeds should be free of pest infection, diseases, and weed seeds. When the origin of the seeds is unknown, it is possible to evaluate the seed sample through observation. Improper dryness, genetic impurities, pest infection, disease contamination do not manifest themselves until when they have started to grow.
4. Planting material preparation
Before planting the rice seeds, they should first be soaked in water and later incubated on seedbeds. These activities ensure the seeds will have germinated by the time they are introduced into the soil. The pre-germination will encourage rapid growth and it will minimize chances of the seed being washed away by the rainwater.
Rice planting is achieved through two practices which are transplanting and direct seeding. Transplanting involves transferring peregrinated seedlings from the seedbed to the field. This practice requires fewer seeds. It is also an effective method for ensuring weed control, but more labor will be required. Direct seeding, on the other hand, involves broadcasting pre-germinated seedlings or dry seed by hand or by use of a machine. In an ecosystem that is rain-fed and deep water, the dry seeds are broadcasted onto the surface of the soil and incorporated by plowing while the soil is dry.
6. Fertilizer application
At every stage of growth, the rice plants require some specific nutrients. Therefore, nutrient management is an essential aspect when it comes to rice farming. The unique properties associated with flooded soils differentiates rice from other crops. As a result of prolonged flooding in the rice fields, it makes it possible for farmers to receive nitrogen inputs from biological sources, and so they may not need nitrogen fertilizer to maintain their yields. Famers can tailor manage their nutrient to some specific levels in order to increase their yields.
Harvesting is understood as the process of collecting rice in the field that has matured. Most often rice is ready for harvesting between 105-150 days after it has been planted. The activities of harvesting involve cutting, handling, staking, cleaning, threshing, and hauling. The method used in harvesting determines grain yield and the level of damage on the grain. Rice harvesting can be achieved either mechanically or manually. Manual harvesting is concerned with cutting the crop using hand tools such as knives and sickles. Manual harvesting is the best when the crop has fallen over or has lodged, although it is labor intensive. It also required more labor for collecting and hauling the harvested crops. On the other hand, mechanical harvesting involves the use of combine harvesters, which is not so common due to the cost and availability of the machinery. After cutting the rice crop, it should be threshed to obtain the rice grains which can be achieved by machine or hand.
Rice production and consumption in Ghana
The local production of rice in Ghana is lower than the consumption needs. The demand for rice is more than the supply in Ghana due to high population and high standard of living, including poor marketing and production arrangements on the part of the supply. The county is forced to import up to 200% of rice in order to compensate for the supply shortfall which drains the scarce foreign exchange. Increase in rice production will play a significant role in the provision of cash and food security to individuals who cannot afford the irrigation technology.
Rice farm equipment
The equipment used in rice farming in Ghana are categorized into tillage equipment, harvesting equipment, and seeding equipment. The equipment are such as combines, tractors, seeding tools, seeders, swathers among others. The equipment are important for rice production as they are used during the process of production.
Rice production in Northern Ghana
Rice production in the northern part of Ghana has a high potential of eliminating poverty among the people living in that area. The present yields of rice in the region are low because of uneven rainfall distribution, inefficient practices of farming, and lack of water control systems. Rice production in Eastern region of Ghana is a bit lower than in the northern region and this is because the people in that region are focusing on other crops such as maize, yam, and groundnuts. FARIAD is boosting food rice and other commodities production in the two regions by introducing new technologies and training farmers on the best farming techniques. For example, FARIAD has introduced maize and rice mille and threshers. The above farming stages will enable farmers to understand the process of rice farming, thus increasing rice production in the economy. Taking advantage of FARIAD’s initiatives will improve rice production in the economy.
Rice farming profitability
In terms of popularity, rice is the second after maize in the world. The rice farming business in Ghana is profitable because of high demand for rice in the market. In the contemporary society, agriculture is the most valuable business. Oil, gas, and technology cannot feed people but agricultural commodities do so. Therefore, rice farming in Ghana will improve the profitability of a businessman and the country as the country will reduce rice imports. The only way rice production can be made profitable in Ghana is through reduction of processing costs, and improvement of the transport system.
Challenges of rice production in Ghana
The problems facing rice production in Ghana include the high cost of production and processing of rice. The transportation system in the country is so poor making it hard and costly for farmers to transport their products. The cost of fertilizer is also high making the cost of production to be high. The cost of production can be reduced by introducing advanced technologies for farmers and improving infrastructure so as to ease transportation.
Rice farming in Ghana is also affected by politics. The country has no policy guide that will help in protecting local rice production. A huge revenue is being invested in other economies through the importation of rice instead of the agricultural sector to reduce the unemployment levels in the economy and increase the production of rice to meet the growing demand. The government of Ghana should, therefore, enact laws that will protect the producers of rice. The government should ensure that 80% of its rice is served in order to reduce the amount of rice imported. By doing this the rice farmers in the economy will be empowered to increase the productivity.
Another challenge facing Ghana rice production is the quality of rice produced locally. The locally produced rice in Ghana is of inferior quality when compared to the imported rice. If the production of low-quality rice continues, the problem will not be solved, but it will worsen. The focus should not only be increasing rice production but increasing the quality of rice being produced within the country. The quality of rice produced depends on the quality of rice planted. Therefore, farmers should be provided with quality seeds so as to harvest quality rice products to feed the nation.
Finally, the packaging and branding of the rice products are not appealing to customers, thus affecting the consumption of locally produced rice. The government should improve access by the farmers to equipment and logistics in order to improve and enhance rice production.
High local production of rice in Ghana will help the country reduce the importation of rice and the revenues saved can be channeled to agricultural production. With the right policies and agricultural methods and techniques, the production of rice in Ghana can be increased.