Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr. Alan Kyerematen, has paid an official working visit to the Avnash Industries Limited’s rice-processing plant – West Africa’s largest rice processing plant, located at Nyakpala in the Northern Region.

The visit afforded him the opportunity to acquaint himself with operations of the company, and was also aimed at interacting with management and staff of the company to understand rice processing operations.

Expressing excitement about the Rice Mill’s operations during the tour, Mr. Kyerematen assured the company of government support that will ensure sustainable production in the coming years.

He commended Avnash for installing such a game changing facility that gives confidence to farmers, as it provides a ready market for paddy-rice.

The rice plant has the capacity to convert 70% of the paddy-rice into full grain, and has provided direct employment to over 125 locals.

The plant with installed processing capacity of 500mt per day is the largest in West Africa, but is currently underutilised at it operates at about 6 percent of installed capacity.

Currently, the plant sources paddy-rice from about 2,000 farmer households and could be sourcing from some 13,860 farmer households at full capacity-utilisation – thereby creating the needed jobs while nourishing the nation with our own wholesome home-grown rice.

The Head of Northern Business of Avnash Industries Ghana Limited, Mr. Ranjan Ghoshal, explained that Avnash has worked with aggregators in the past but is currently employing other models to put the company directly in touch with farmers.

“We have developed our own paddy procurement team under the leadership of a local manager and all field officers from the University of Development Studies who are continuously conducting community meetings, guiding farmers, meeting with chiefs and elders of towns and farming communities to engage more farmers in rice farming as we provide a ready market.”

He indicated that as part its strategy, the company has a policy to organise ‘Farmers Meets’ regularly to encourage rice farming and constantly learn from the farmers and also share vital information with them.

He stated that farmers have been assured that Avnash is there to buy all their paddy at prevailing market prices.  Since Avnash started paddy-rice production, the price of paddy has gone up from GH¢0.85/kg to GH¢1.75/ kg over the two production seasons.

“It is also a challenge for us as we have to process the paddy and sell the rice to our customers who are being served by global merchants.  The selling price of processed rice, again, is not in our hands but decided by the market.”

He complained about the influx of imported rice flooding the market, especially those that are smuggled in – pushing prices very low to unsustainable levels.

“But all these initiatives will not guarantee even 25%  asset utilisation considering our huge investment; hence, we are desperately looking forward to government support in various forms to boost rice production and sustain operations of the mill,” he said.