Illegal importation of rice collapsing local industry, says GAWU

GAWU has urged the government to conduct an extensive evaluation of the various rice brands on the market to determine which ones were imported through authorised channels

The General Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU) says it has identified an increase in illegal rice imports into the country’s markets, which is harming the local rice industry.

The union said that, while official figures suggested that rice imports had declined in the last three years, the recorded drop “is not reflective on the ground” as a considerable amount of foreign rice was smuggled into the country through unapproved routes.

Edward Kareweh, the general secretary, GAWU, said the organisation’s market assessment and investigations in border communities showed that some rice brands on the markets were sourced from Togo, Cote D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

He said the illegally imported rice was between 20 to 30% cheaper compared to the locally produced ones.
The situation, he cautioned, would collapse the local rice industry as local rice producers were unable to compete successfully.

“For those in the northern part of the country, much of their rice imports are now coming from Burkina Faso and Togo, and that is how it has flooded the system.

“When we say that our import values are declining, we are not able to capture the illegal entry of the rice and that is the one that is choking the system because they are cheaper,” Kareweh said.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo told Parliament last Tuesday (27 February) that the between 2021 and 2023, rice imports fell by some 45%.

In 2021, rice imports amounted to 805,000 metric tonnes; in 2022 650,000MT; and, in 2023, 440,000MT, the president said in the State of the Nation Address.

The GAWU said the decline in imports following an increase in rice consumption should have boosted the local industry, but that was not the case.

“Farmers in the Northern Part of the country have harvested their rice, but they cannot get market. A rice mill at Savelugu has been complaining that they will shut down because when they process the rice there is no market for it.

“This is because the rice market is flooded with imported rice,” Kareweh said.

Kareweh said illegal rice importation was a result of government systems failing to address the challenges affecting local rice producers.

He called for coordinated approach and collaboration among the various actors along the value chain to combat the canker.

Kareweh urged the government to conduct an extensive evaluation of the various rice brands on the market to determine which ones were imported through authorised channels to understand the scope of the problem and take appropriate action.

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