Sad Days When Politicians Play Politics With National Issues

…such as food security.

Various media reports and statements emerged after the recent Agribusiness Investment Summit which was aimed at turning the potentials in the agricultural sector of the country into opportunities.

Food Security Ghana (FSG) is not sure if a new blueprint for food security arose from this summit, but we are very sure that what emerged is confusion with a high probability of deceit by those charged with the management of food security in Ghana.

The first confusion that emerged from media reports was whent it was reported that the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Edwin Nii Lantey Vanderpuije, “said the government was initiating steps to reduce reliance on the importation of rice into the country, with a focus of becoming a net exporter of rice by 2017.”

What does a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry has to do with the policies of Ghana related to the management of agriculture?

In the same media report the Minister in charge of food security, Mr Clement Kofi Humado, said, “He was optimistic that by 2018, the domestic production would have exceeded the domestic (production) for rice.”

Is the target for self-sufficiency with regards to rice production now 2017 or 2018?

But to add to the confusion all Ghanaians will remember very well consecutive promises by the previous boss of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Mr. Kwasi Ahwoi, that he will make Ghana self-sufficient in terms of rice production within three years or else he will resign.

When the first promise expired he changed the term to 2015 and said the President can fire him if that is not achieved. His promise did not materialise and the then President, John Evans Atta Mills, did not fire Mr. Ahwoi as he sadly passed away.

To add to this confusion the Government of Ghana (GoG) announced during the recent summit that Ghana was in fact producing rice that satisfied 56 percent of local demand. This and similar figures were bandied around by Mr. Ahwoi during his reign.

The bombshell was then dropped by the former President of Ghana, Mr. Kufour, when he severely criticised the government for their policy on rice production in Ghana.

In figures released by Mr. Kufour the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) estimates Ghana’s rice production in MY 2013-14 (October – September) at 300,000 tons (milled basis) against a consumption of around 925,000 tons. Ghana’s rice imports are estimated at about 575,000 tons in MY 2013-14.

One does not need to have a doctorate in mathematics to calculate that the estimated locally produced rice’s contribution to local demand is only 32 percent.

Mr. Kufuor also indicated that that Ghana’s rice consumption is estimated to increase to about 1.68 million tons by 2019, up about 82% from the current levels of around 925,000 tons.

Once again one does not need to be a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that the politicians in charge of affairs today are playing politics with a national issue of the highest importance – food security.

Based on achievements or rather non-achievements by the NDC government in the area of agriculture and food security since 2008 the moon has a better chance to turn into cheese than Ghana has of becoming self-sufficient in rice production by 2018.

Every, but every, Ghanaian is fully behind the quest to become self-sufficient with regards to both rice and poultry (chicken) production.

However, Ghanaians are slowly but surely waking up to the realities that the GoG has been making promises in this regards without delivering on those promises.

In the meantime the GoG is levying excessive duties and taxes on basic foodstuff such as rice and poultry without a feasible strategy and plan to narrow the gap between demand and supply.

As former President Jerry John Rawlings recently stated that, “today there is food in the market but people cannot afford it.”

The fact is that the government has shown and proven an inability to resolve the production side and is trying to compensate by punishing Ghanaians on the demand side through excessive duties and taxes on basic food that they can’t supply due to mismanagement.

It is indeed a sad day and Ghanaians are more and more getting a feeling of “them belly full but we are hungry”.

It is time to put politics aside and to come up with realistic policies and plans based on today’s realities, even if those plans may take ten years to be realised.