Grain de sel : Could you please tell us about GRIB (mission, organisation, objectives, membership, etc.)?
Fidelis Avogo : Grib is a stakeholder group, an NGO in the rice sector. GRIB gathers farmers, millers, processors, marketers and brokers . Today it gathers Almost 8000 members. 37 farmers groups, 23 women marketers groups, 9 brokers, 25 millers, 25 women processors. GRIB has a warehouse in Accra.
GRIB tackles marketing issues, lobbying, advocating. We also try to raise awareness so that the population eat Ghanaian rice. We have a General Assembly which gathers once per year, and an Executive Committee.
12 zones represented by one chairman each (meet quarterly). The Executive Directors are the President, the Vice President, the Secretary Treasurer. I am the Executive Secretary since October 2007). I come from the financial world, studied abroad (MBA in Leicester, GB). Financing:
The AFD provides support for the running cost of GRIB a support (85% of the whole budget) it has rendered to the body since July 2004. The AFD further finances 100% of the activities of GRIB through the Food Security Rice Producers Organisation Project (FSRPOP). These activities included capacity building training, investment measures and promotion of local rice. Finally the French Government through the AFD in the year 2007 signed a €1.3 million loan agreement with the Government of Ghana to develop about 8000 rice production regions of the Norther, Upper East, Upper West and North Volta of Ghana. Within their financing of the 5 years National Rice Sector Programme (which is to start in October 2008). GRIB office is located in the Ministry of Agriculture, Directorate of Crop services.
Grain de sel : What is your vision for GRIB?
Fidelis Avogo : “I want to change the perception that farmers are poor. Take them into business. Help them to make their activity profitable” (mostly increasing production and quality). Building capacity to increase the output. Reduce the cost: sell at profit. So that farmers will not be afraid to invest. We cannot do away with agriculture. We have good climatic conditions, we have the manpower. Agriculture still employs 60% of the population. There are more and more people coming from the countryside in Accra, mainly women who come from the North to work in the market carrying load for shopper; a phenomenon call KAYA YE. When rice farming was booming in the northern sector of Ghana (which constitute over 60% of Ghana’s output) these women were engaged in the farms.
The social consequences are very important. According to me, the main question is how do we make agriculture profitable? What is our comparative advantage? We have to develop the adequate infrastructures. The sector should be better structured, some sector/organisation audit has to be done to identify opportunities.
We need to develop homogeneous quality standards.
Grain de sel : How to tackle financial matters?
Fidelis Avogo: GRIB has identified that one major cash centre making rice production in Ghana very cost intensive and therefore discouraging to farmers is “Land Development”. It has therefore been proposed to government to establish a Rice Development Fund (RDF) which will be a fund set aside and used for land development to cushion the cost to farmers. To set up this fund GRIB has suggested a minimum levy to be put on imported rice (which constitute about 70% or more) of the current consumption. This fund will be managed by a stakeholder commission including Government to enforce check and balances and effective administration. We advocated the implementation of a rice development fund. This year, with elections in the end of the year, might not be the best for our request.
Grain de sel : How support marketing of Local Rice?
Fidelis Avogo: To enable farmers be assured of ready market for their produce, GRIB further proposes the setting of a Market Credit Line. In pursuance of the objective, an MoU was sign in July 2007 with a private Bank (Merchant Bank) and witness by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP). The established a market credit line is a 2,000,000.00 Ghana Cedis revolving facility. This allowed select GRIB brokers to buy paddy from FBOs as well as rice from marketers groups and supplied to the ongoing Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP). This programme (GSFP) was implemented by the State in which basic school pupils are given food that is paid for by State. Teething problems including: pricing, time of payment for supplies, interest however plagued the attractiveness of the MCL to the brokers. But GRIB currently holding tripartite talks with the participating groups in a bid to overcoming these problems. The interest rate is 25%.
Brokers who could access funds needed to demonstrate a minimum capacity in collateral to qualify. GRIB is here the facilitator.
Grain de sel : What are the impacts and consequences of the food crisis on rice producers and GRIB?
Fidelis Avogo : The crisis was a good opportunity. Ghana still imports 70 to 80 p% of its rice consumed. Some data say that local production increased from 1998 to 2002, then from 2003 till 2005 it decreased. Reasons: draughts, floods, higher costs (we depend on imports apart from the labour; cost discourages mechanisation).
When the food crisis appeared, the government took off the custom duties, announcing it in a recent address to the nation, but without consulting us. It then had a bad effect on local producers because prices for imported rice dropped therefore making local produce less attractive to consumers. It should be noted that producers had already sunk funds in producing the stock they hold. So they rather had to recover than benefit from the world price surge. Also the Government’s custom duty relieve did not have duration and with world prices surging I do not believe the measure will stabilise consumer prices in the least. On the contrary, I believe this was a time to increase prices, give the local production an urge and mobilise revenue for rice sector development.