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Business News of Thursday, 21 November 2019

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Fumbisi rice farmers appeal for market

The National Food Buffer Stuck Company (NAFCO) is mobilising its licensed buyers to move to Fumbisi in the Upper East Region to purchase rice from the farmers there.

This follows complaints from the farmers that even though they have produced hundreds of tonnes of rice, they are not getting market for their produce.

A visit to the Fumbisi Valley revealed hundreds of bagged paddy rice scattered on farms along the road, awaiting buyers.

Issue with Avnash

The situation has arisen following the decision of a private company, Avnash Industry Ghana, not to buy the rice from the farmers again.

Avnash has, over the years, been purchasing rice at the farm gate, but declined to do so this year, even though the farmers claimed two weeks to the harvesting, the company had a meeting with them and pledged not only to increase the price per bag but also provide them with sacks to bag the rice.

Consequently, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NAFCO, Alhaji Hanan Abdul-Wahab, last Tuesday visited the valley to assess the situation and find a solution to the problem.

According to the farmers, the situation had resulted in middlemen and market women taking advantage to offer them ridiculously low prices.

Protecting farmers

But Alhaji Abdul-Wahab gave an assurance that one of the core mandates of NAFCO was to ensure that farmers were not cheated or shortchanged.

“So as we are here, my other team is also in talks with the licensed buying companies with resources to come in immediately to buy," he explained.

He said farmers were the priority of NAFCO and it would, therefore, ensure that nobody took undue advantage of them.

NAFCO’s efforts

"In a week or two, we will be able to mop up what they have on the field. I want to assure farmers that I am here with my team to address their problem because the government is a listening government," Alhaji Abdul-Wahab said.

School feeding

The CEO also gave an assurance that this year all the 88 boarding senior high schools (SHSs) under the free SHS programme in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions would be supplied with local rice.

Additionally, he said, SHSs in the Central, Western, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions would also be supplied with local rice.

Alhaji Abdul-Wahab disclosed that this semester alone, more than 6,000 bags of local rice had been procured for SHSs.

He said the government was aware that with the Planting for Food and Jobs programme, a time would come when it would be confronted with food surpluses.

That challenge, he said, was an opportunity for other buyers to move to the Fumbisi Valley to buy rice.

Concerns of farmers

Recounting their challenges, a farmer, Mr Abdul-Khadiri Sullo, said because of the situation, farmers needed to entice buyers to their farms.

He said, for instance, that the farmers had no choice but to give out three bags of rice for the price of two, lamenting that most of them had taken loans and might not be able to pay back.

Mr Sullo explained that those who refused to succumb to the requests of the buyers were yet to get buyers for their rice.

He was grateful to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture for responding swiftly to their plight, explaining that "as we talk, the rice is getting spoilt and people are dying out of this".

He suggested to the government to immediately arrange to situate a rice mill within the Fumbisi enclave to solve the issue of milling.

The Upper East Regional Chairman of Nuclear Farmers, Mr Richard Akoka, himself a farmer, said another major challenge was the nature of the roads leading to the valley but admitted that some work was being done on them.

He said since he refused to give out three bags for the price of two, "I now have to look for means to cart my paddy rice from the valley to Navrongo for safekeeping”.