Millions of people consume rice in this country everyday. Statistics has shown that the total consumption of rice in the country is about three hundred thousand tons of which 80% are imported. It is about time we patronized our locally produced goods. There are some manufactured goods in Sierra Leone and I believe if we patronize our locally produced goods, our country will be more advanced in years to come.
It surprised me when the statistics showed, that the consumption of local rice is very low in the country, although the production has not been so high, but it has steadily increased over the years and last year’s production was very good that should see this rice in many restaurants in the country. I believe, it is because Sierra Leoneans have not taken into consideration how delicious our local rice is. The local rice no doubt, is very delicious than the so called imported rice, because it is unpolished, full of nutrients and of high quality.
Talking of patronizing the local rice, it will go a long way to creating employment in the country. In relation to the statistics, our local rice farmers can produce more than fifty percent of the total rice consumption when well patronized. Thus if our local rice is consumed than the foreign ones, more farmers would be needed in the production and also more people will be employed in the manufacturing industry. As the unemployment level is high in this country, I therefore believe this initiative will reduce the unemployment level.
Monies put into importation of foreign rice can be redirected to other developmental projects such as schools, hospitals, clinics, roads and portable water to deprived communities.
I therefore suggest that government should direct local rice to boarding schools. Policies should be formulated that will give our local farmers the edge over the importers. The government Agenda for Change should focus on agriculture not on political party bases, but give enough support to the real farmers that need the help. Last year when Awoko did a project on rice cultivation in the country, one thing that was discovered was that the government tractors were given to party stalwarts rather than the dedicated famers.
Secondly, it was also proven that most of the rice produced in the country was smuggled out due to the number of police check points in the road to Freetown, this frustrated the farmers and they in turn take their produce to neighbouring Guinea and Liberia.
Farming equipment, good seedlings, fertilizers should be provided to the farmers. Commercial banks should welcome the idea of reducing the interest rate for farmers, and these farmers should come together and work in groups to increase production.
It is a sad reflection to see a country like Sierra Leone, importing rice into the country while we produce rice locally. It is also sad to remember in the sixties and seventies that we were exporting rice. Right from the word go, let us love ‘made in Sierra Leone’ goods and let us eat more of our rice, our locally produced rice will never allow someone to be diabetic, it fields the stomach for a long time than the imported rice, it give us value for money and will definitely improve our economy as well as employment.
By Austin Thomas