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After the Bloomberg announcement on Wednesday that other West African States have suspended taxes on imported rice in a bid to prevent consumer prices to rise concerns about Ghana’s policies have re-emerged.
The Ivory Coast suspended taxes on imported rice in a bid to prevent consumer prices from rising, while neighboring Mali extended a similar subsidy. In the meantime the Ghana government has remained silent on how they will support Ghanaian consumers in the light of repeated questionable and broken promises by Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi, Minister of Food and Agriculture of Ghana.
Mr. Ahwoi made his first promise of making Ghana self sufficient with regards to rice supply in 2009. This promise has already been proven to be not only propagandistic, but indeed deceitful.
The Food and Agriculture Minister’s next promise was to halve rice imports by October 2012 and to resign should he not achieve this. Once again this promise is highly likely to be a broken one, and Ghanaians are waiting for his reaction in October this year.
Food Security Ghana (FSG) reported on Mr. Ahwoi’s defeat by Mrs. Queenster Pokuah Sawyer, a real estate developer, in the ruling party’s parliamentary primary for the Agona East Constituency. As part of the report a review was done on his promises as well as his own acknowledgement that he was “grabbing at straws” in fulfilling his role as Food and Agriculture Minister of Ghana.
The Minister, Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi, has doggedly promised Ghanaians that he will make Ghana self sufficient with regards to the supply of rice. This egoistic pursuit of the Minister has only produced one result for Ghanaians - increased hardship.
The world knows that self-sufficiency does not equal food security, but it seems that the government of Ghana has decided to write its own definition of the essence of food security.
The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as follows, “Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels [is achieved] when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Commonly, the concept of food security is defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs as well as their food preferences. In many countries, health problems related to dietary excess are an ever increasing threat, In fact, malnutrion and foodborne diarrhea are become double burden.
The above globally accepted definition of “food security” never mentions “self sufficiency”. Instead “food security” is built on three pillars:
Food availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis.
Food access: having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.
Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.
There are many countries that can not and will never be able to become “self sufficient” in terms of the supply of foodstuff. These countries are therefore dependent on trade and indeed importation of food.
In a paper prepared for presentation at the 106th seminar of the EAAE “Pro-poor development in low income countries: Food, agriculture, trade, and environment 25-27 October 2007 – Montpellier, France” the authors concluded that “even when restrictions on imports or high tariffs have been implemented, their effect on local production stimulation has been limited.”
In short the conclusion of the research was that you can not fix local production problems through high import duties.
The report further concluded that, “Indeed the competitiveness of domestic rice production does not depend only upon the cost efficiency of rice producer. It is adversely affected by the performance of the post-harvest operations which does not allow domestic product to match the quality of imported rice in terms of homogeneity and cleanliness. Consumers are ready to pay for a higher price for imported clean and well packed rice.”
Even though Ghana probably has the potential to become self sufficient in supplying local demand, the policies and time frames on how to achieve that is critical. Selfish policies without seeing the big picture and with disregard to the needs and wants of the Ghanaian people must and should be questioned.
Given a year of general elections in Ghana it is time that the government, the opposition, producers and consumers actively engage in a constructive debate on what is really in the interest of the people of Ghana - immediate and non-plausible self sufficiency or food security.
Source: Food Security Ghana.