Ghana has once again successfully completed a general election and elected a new President, Mr. John Dramani Mahama. The nation and Food Security Ghana (FSG) are anxiously awaiting inevitable changes that will come with his appointment.
As far as food security is concerned FSG has written extensively on areas of concern and hope that these areas will receive the necessary attention from the President.
Firstly there is the aspect of the current food and agricultural policy. The Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP) II that guides agricultural development in Ghana was first created by the previous New Patriotic Party (NPP) government in 2002 and revised in 2007. When the National Democratic Congress (NDC) took over the reins in 2009 this policy was adopted as is.
The last revision of this policy was done five years ago and according to the policy a growth rate of 6% per year has been set as a target. In 2011, however, the sector only achieved a 2.5% growth and the question has to be asked whether the policy is faulty or whether implementation of the policy is at fault.
Mr. President please ask the sector ministry, The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), to review this ineffective policy or to find the reasons why its targets are not being met.
With changes such as this, a new Presidency, one normally expects changes in the administration. Since 2009 MOFA has been headed by Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi and his term has not been without controversy.
Mr. Ahwoi is well known for his dogged determination to make Ghana self-sufficient with regards to rice production and his dogged refusal to follow a transition policy by lowering import duties on rice and then increase it again as the local industry matures.
It is a known fact that Ghana can only supply 30% of demand for rice through local production. Most countries facing such a demand - supply gap protects consumers with relatively low import duties on basic foodstuff. Ghana’s 37% import tariffs are relatively high compared to its neighbours who face similar circumstances.
A similar situation exists with regards to poultry and the announcement by MOFA that it will “ban” importation of this basic foodstuff in 2013 will have disastrous results on consumers if the local supply can not fill the demand - supply gap. Not only will it create huge shortfalls but will indeed cause prices to escalate beyond control.
Mr. President please review trade policies with regards to basic foodstuffs and consider a transition strategy that will protect consumers while the local industry is being managed to supply the demand in acceptable quality and quantity.
Many promises were made and broken by Mr. Ahwoi and in the light of his failure to deliver on targets for the industry it may also be time for the President to consider bringing in someone new who can look at Ghana’s food security situation from a “fresh” perspective?
Another aspect critical to the achievement of food security is the levels of investment in both agriculture and agricultural research.
Although Ghana has committed itself to spend 10% of its budget on agriculture it is a known fact that the current budget is not sufficient and that spending on agricultural research is well below required levels as acknowledged by MOFA.
If the required investments in agriculture are not sufficient it may also be an opportune time that the budgeting process is reviewed. Rather than working on a percentage of budget it may be time to work on a basis of investment required to get the job done, even if that amount exceeds the 10% guideline.
Although the government has put METASIP (Medium-Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan) in place, it is obviously that this plan has not been effective to date.
Mr. President please urgently arrange that the allocation of resources for agriculture and agricultural research is being reviewed to ensure that the right things are done to establish short and medium term food security for Ghana.
FSG has on many occasions questioned the administration’s true understanding of the concept of “food security”. Statements and actions in the past has made us believe that “self-sufficiency” and “security” is being seen as one-and-the-same.
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 essence it is about availability, affordability and nutrition according to the preferences of the people, and not that of the government. Many countries will never be able to produce certain foodstuffs and importation to ensure availability will be the only option.
The real issue here is that if food security policies and plans are built on the foundations of the accepted definition above government may take a drastic different view on certain policies and trade and fiscal decisions. This will involve both import tariffs on basic foodstuffs and tax policies such as VAT (Value Added Tax) on basic foodstuffs.
Mr. President please request that current policies and plans are evaluated with the definition of “food security” as guideline and taking the preferences and needs of the people of Ghana into consideration.
There are many other issues to be looked at but the above four issues namely the country’s food and agricultural policy, leadership of the sector, investment levels, trade and tax decisions and insight into the true meaning of food security is a good start.