Farmer groups in the country have urged government to impose more tariffs on imported rice as a policy tool to support and step up local production.
They argued that funds generated from the taxes could be channeled to support local farmers to increase production.
Speaking at a stakeholders forum on the rice industry in Accra, Mr Ibrahim Akalibila, National Co-ordinator of Ghana Trades and Livelihoods Coalition, said it was high time Ghana learnt from other countries, which had successfully used tariffs to spur the growth of sensitive sectors of their economy.
He said the biggest challenge to improving the rice sector was lack of adequate funds to invest, arguing that resources generated from the imposition of tariffs could be directed to the development of the sector.
"When tariffs are used appropriately to invest in the growth of a sector, there may be gains in a country's economic welfare," he said.
The day's forum on the rice value chain organised by the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) was to discuss the proposed rice development strategy with a view to making inputs into it to enhance the sector.
Mr Akalbila said tariffs serve as the best opportunity for the country to mobilise funds for investment into expanding rice protection and agriculture in general.
Currently, demand for rice stands at some 600,000 metric tons, but the country is only able to meet 30 per cent.
It is estimated that on average every Ghanaian consume some 38kg of rice per annum and this is expected to increase to 63.0kg by 2015.
Mr. Akalibila noted that in Ghana, tariff revenue is about 20 per cent of total tax revenue, and said rice tariffs would improve the balance of payments, generate employment, improve food security and improve economic welfare.
The President of PFAG, Mr Mohammed Nashiru Adams, commended government for its commitment to improving rice production but said the challenges in the sector needed to be resolved more quickly to avoid plunging the country into disaster.
He lauded the development of a Rice Sector Development Strategy and expressed the hope that it would establish the framework within which to achieve national aspirations in rice production.
Mr Baba Adongo of TechnoServe, a non-governmental organisation said factors like lack of irrigation and processing facilities, poor extension services, among other things continue to be major challenges to farmers in the sector.
Mr. Adongo said given the right incentive the farmers could produce quality rice that would compete with any imported brand.
Mr. Edward T. Kareweh, Deputy General Secretary of General Agricultural Workers Union, said trough commitments made by the country under the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union, it would be difficult imposing more tariffs on rice.
In this direction, he said the country should rather focus on increasing local production.
Mr. Twum Ankrah of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture said the intention of government under the National Rice Development Strategy was to cut rice import by half by 2018, adding that the Ministry was doing everything possible to make this happen.
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