CRI develops new rice varieties to boost production
The Crop Research Institute (CRI) at Fumesua near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region is developing new rice varieties with extremely rich qualities such as being high-yielding and resistant to common pests and diseases, aimed at improving domestic rice production.
Some of the varieties are AgraRice, CRI-Amankwatia and Gbewaa rice (Jasmine 85). Some of the new breeds have already been commercially released and many more are undergoing field tests in various parts of the country.
The new varieties can yield up to eight (8) metric tonnes per hectare (mt/h) as against the current average production rate in the country hovering around 2.5 (mt/h). They have consumer-preferred grain quality such as long grain, perfume rice that cooks soft.
“The rationale behind the new development is to help make the rice industry in Ghana competitive in terms of production and marketability. With a yield difference of about 5 tonnes per hectare, the new varieties have a great potential to bridge the gap between local production and importation,” Dr. Maxwell Darko Asante, a rice-breeder, told B&FT in an interview.
Due to the high demand for the grain food in the country, particularly the perfumed class, many people have found rice importation a lucrative venture and are massively importing from a wide-range of sources around the world. It is estimated that annually Ghana imports between US$200million and US$400million worth of rice.
The rice-breeder said in order to make the concept behind developing the new varieties a reality, government must give premium to investment into the rice industry to address the challenges impeding its development, adding: “Government support has been limited. Organisations/projects such the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), JICA the Feed the Future project, among others have been supporting rice research in Ghana”.
He indicated that lack of investment in the rice industry over the years has translated into inadequate supply of required machines (tractors, power-tillers, threshers, dryers and modern milling equipment) to move the industry. Scarce entrepreneurs’ focus on marketing locally-produced rice coupled with poor processing by farmers has also compounded the industry’s woes.
Dr. Asante urged farmers to maintain the quality of grain at harvest by milling with the modern machines to avoid poor appearance; and marketing (bagging, branding and advertising) must also be done professionally to make domestic rice more competitive.