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In Gbdembilisi, a small town nestled in the Builsa South District of Ghana’s Upper East Region, a crisis is unfolding that threatens a way of life. Known for its fertile lands and dedicated rice cultivation, Gbdembilisi is grappling with an unexpected challenge: an abundance of rice with no buyers in sight.
Local farmers, who have long relied on rice farming as their primary source of income, are in distress. John Amobil, a local farmer, voices his concern, “This year, our usual buyers are scarce. The government’s importation of large quantities of rice has led to a market saturation, leaving us with a surplus we cannot sell.”
The problem, as explained by Cezar Akinkang, Chairman of the Builsa South Rice Farmers Association, is the price disparity between local and imported rice. Imported varieties, cheaper due to lower production costs abroad, are outcompeting local rice, creating a surplus that local markets can’t absorb. “Our rice is more expensive because of high input costs. We need government intervention in the form of subsidies to make our rice competitive,” Mr. Akinkang appeals.
The situation in Gbdembilisi is not just an economic crisis but a cultural one. Rice cultivation is deeply woven into the community’s heritage, a tradition passed down for generations. Farmers like David Awunya are disheartened, “If I had an alternative, I would quit farming. Our yields go to waste as buyers haggle unfairly, or worse, don’t show up at all.”
Adding to their woes are logistical challenges. The district has only two warehouses, both now brimming with unsold rice. Farmers are forced to store rice in their homes and even local drinking bars, highlighting a dire need for more storage facilities.
The high cost of farming inputs, machinery services, and a deficient road network further exacerbate the situation, leading to significant post-harvest losses. Ali Gafaru, another farmer, points out the broader implications, “This downturn in sales affects us beyond just our income. We struggle to repay loans taken out for our farming operations.”
There is a glimmer of hope, however. Abdulai Amadu, the Builsa South District Crop Officer, notes that Farmerline, an agritech firm, has begun supporting some farmers by purchasing their produce. “We are optimistic that Farmerline’s intervention will extend to more farmers, helping to alleviate some of the current challenges,” he states.