The Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of Livestock, Dr. Hanna Louisa Bissiw, recently said that importers who flouted a policy allowing an importer to bring only 100 tonnes each of livestock and poultry products every three months would have to return the products to the country of origin.
This statement was made at a conference and an exhibition on agriculture organised by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US commodity groups.
The illness that she wants to heal is of course the fact that Ghana is dependent on imports to satisfy 90% of its consumption demand of poultry.
This illness has basically been orchestrated and nurtured by consecutive governments dating back many many years when Ghana was in fact a net exporter of chicken in the sub-region.
A very similar situation exists in the rice industry where Ghana is probably dependent on importation of 50% to 70% of local demand.
The nice excuse by the current and previous governments is that trade liberalisation and globalisation have resulted in “dumping” of cheap products in Ghana that have undermined the local industries.
Liberalisation and globalisation have obviously had enormous impacts on Africa and other developing countries. However, on badly managed countries such as Ghana, the impacts have been rather disastrous.
The problems of the rice and poultry industries in Ghana is symptomatic of shoddy governance over a long period of time. If those were products of any private enterprise the management of such an enterprise would have taken steps to avoid the destruction of the company many, many years ago.
The blame must be squarely laid at the feet of the government, and more specifically at the feet of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) of consecutive governments.
The rot is so deep and the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that only time, patience and lots of investment will fix it.
Trade restrictions such as those touted by the Honourable Dr. Bissiw will definitely not fix an inefficient and uncompetitive industry.
What is needed is proper management and support to local producers. Trade restrictions without the above will only result in huge inflation in food prices – something that the Ghana public who are battling to make ends meet can hardly afford.
After all the noise made by MOFA under the rule of Mr. Kwasi Ahwoi about the situation in the rice industry, it is sad to read that the farmers are planning to sue MOFA over a rice project that should have been completed in 18 months “but the farmers have not set eyes on the MoFA officials and the contractor”.
It is even sadder to read such “chicken doctor cures” when the fact is that the government have signed an agreement with NEPAD to spend at least 10% on agriculture while they are probably spending less than 2%.
Until the day that the Government of Ghana squarely faces up to its food security responsibility, the country’s agriculture will be running around in circles like a headless chicken. And if we are not careful, it will be an imported headless chicken.
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