The Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed three new varieties of rice to help boost the production of the cereal in the country.
The new varieties — AG-CRI-UPL-1-2, AG-CRI-UPL-4-13 and AG-CRI-UPL-1-18 — have long, slender, white, aromatic grains which take between 90 and 100 days to mature.
At a press briefing at the CSIR Head Office in Accra last Wednesday, a rice breeder at the CRI, Dr Kofi Ayirebi Dartey, said over the years, rice production had been a major challenge to farmers due to the difficulties they faced in acquiring suitable land and the number of days rice took to mature.
He said the challenges had caused many farmers to frown on rice production, with the accompanying negative consequences for the nation.
Dr Dartey said the development had contributed to the high importation of rice into the country.
He stated that Ghana could not afford to continue to spend huge amounts of money to import rice when the opportunity existed to maximise production locally.
It was in that context that the institute went the extra mile to develop the rice varieties, he explained.
Dr Dartey said the development of the varieties was sponsored by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), while the Korean Africa Food and Agricultural Cooperation Initiative (KAFACI) sponsored the testing of the varieties.
Giving further explanation on the new rice varieties, Dr Dartey said some of the best varieties of rice across the world were selected and inter-bred to achieve the positive results.
He said the new varieties were very resistant to diseases and could be cultivated on highlands.
“Unlike the ordinary varieties of rice which can only flourish at lowland areas, especially where the land has enough water, these new varieties grow in highland areas and, therefore, people can even cultivate them in their gardens and at any ordinary place where maize or cowpea can grow,” he declared.
“These types of rice will relieve farmers of the stress they usually go through during rice production.
They take a few weeks to mature and since they grow on highlands, it will be easier for farmers to use tractors to cultivate without fear of the tractors getting stuck,” he added.
Dr Dartey announced that with sponsorship from the Korea Programme for International Agriculture (KOPIA), the CRI would cultivate 2,000 hectares with the new varieties within the next three years.
He appealed to farmers to adopt the new varieties and promote them to help improve rice production for local consumption and also for export.
“This country spends millions of dollars to import rice each year, so if farmers adopt these new varieties which mature very fast and start cultivating them, within a short period the country will produce a lot of rice and that will enable us to reduce the high importation.
“We are aiming to reduce rice importation by 50 per cent this year and this should be the best solution,” Dr Dartey added.
Last year, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, disclosed that Ghana had been spending over a billion dollars on rice imports into the country annually since 2015.
Describing the situation as “a disaster and worrying”, the minister said statistics indicated that from 2007 to 2015, the importation of rice, a leading import commodity in the country, rose from about $151 million to $1,162 million.