View Full Version : Food Security Ghana - Issues to track in 2012 (Part I)

17th January 2012, 05:35 PM
The year 2011 was without doubt an annus horribilis with regards to food security globally. What are the issues that need to be addressed by governments globally and specifically in Ghana in 2012 that will indicate a positive trend towards ensuring food security for the people. Food Security Ghana will endeavour to highlight those issues here.

Food Security
What happens in the area of food and agriculture in Ghana in 2012 should be evaluated against the background of what it is all about - food security.

Food Security Ghana (FSG) has stated what food security is all about many times in the past, but let's repeat it for clarity purpose:

According to Wikipedia two commonly used definitions of food security come from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

• Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

• Food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum (1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and (2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies). (USDA)

The definitions above can be summarised as follows:

• Available Food
• Affordable Food
• Safe Food
• Nutritional Food
• To meet the dietary needs and food preferences of the people

This implies that if the people of a country wants and needs a foodstuff that they can't get due to inefficient local production, everything must be put in place to facilitate the sourcing of that foodstuff without impediments being placed on that sourcing process.

It will also be important to see if the government is able to distinguish between food security and self-sufficiency, a real problem that has plagued Ghana's food and agricultural policies since 2009.

In 2012 close attention should be given to the actions of stakeholders to ensure that real food security is guaranteed in Ghana.

“Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics”
FSG has previously reported on the accuracy of information with regards to food security in all aspects. It is generally accepted that no business (including a government) can be effectively managed if its performance and operations can't be measured.

In the past two years various reports and / or statements from the government raised serious concerns about the validity of food security statistics in Ghana.

During the period 2010 to 2011 the country's reliance on rice imports was estimated by various government officials to be anything from 90% to 60%. This indicates only one thing, namely that the information available are either unreliable, or that the government is basing forward planning on guesswork.

Statistics on consumer price inflation figures have also been questioned by various parties. While the Department of Statistics have been quoting falling statistics, various reports in the media have indicated that the price of basic foodstuffs have been skyrocketing.

The government even acknowledged that there is indeed a problem when it established a project to register farmers in Ghana with the hope of gathering and collating reliable information. In addition it launched a new website to disseminate information and statistics to the public at large.

Although the above developments are positive, it is essential to closely watch and see if we can indeed get to the truth of food security reporting in 2012.

Mindsets - Short, Medium and Long-term
FSG has been critical about government's policy statements and actions taken since November 2009 when it reintroduced a 20% import tariff on certain essential foodstuffs despite indications that the world and Ghana was entering a new food crisis following the 2007 - 2008 crises.

While food agencies globally agrees that one way of protecting developing countries from food crises caused by high and volatile food prices is to invest in agriculture to make developing countries less dependent on food imports, all agree that this will take time. While such policies and actions are put in place, it is essential for governments to do all in its power to also assist and support its citizens on the short term.

The claimed and actual actions by the government towards a longer term solution is laudable. However, the government has not showed any signs of shorter term policies and assistance to Ghanaians while longer term policies and plans evolve.

The year 2011 has been a tough year globally, including for Ghanaians. All indications are that 2012 will be an even tougher year and with general elections looming in Ghana, it will be important to see how the government and opposition parties plan to address the shorter term food crisis to alleviate the hardship of Ghanaians.

High Cost of Production
Reports on the high cost of farming production surfaces with regular intervals. In November 2011 farmers in the North complained that, according to them, the high interest rate on borrowing from banks, poor state of roads and expensive agricultural inputs may affect the country's food production and called on the government to intervene.

In the poultry industry the same cries have been heard for quite some years - an inability to compete with cheaper imports due to high local cost of production. To date the government's reaction has been to announce an intention to ban the import of poultry produce to stop “dumping” from 2013.

A standard technical definition of dumping is the act of charging a lower price for a good in a foreign market than one charges for the same good in a domestic market. This is often referred to as selling at less than "fair value". Under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement, dumping is condemned (but is not prohibited) if it causes or threatens to cause material injury to a domestic industry in the importing country.

The real question that need to be answered in 2012 is if the importation of poultry constitutes dumping or if the condition of the poultry industry is similar to that of the rice industry, namely that the industry is unable to supply local demand due to inefficiencies in the local industry.

Agriculture and Youth Employment
One of the priorities in Ghana is to create employment for the youth. Much noise has been made about the government's Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP). According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) the “YIAP is a Government of Ghana (GOG) agricultural sector initiative with an objective of motivating the youth to accept and appreciate farming/food production as a commercial venture, thereby taking up farming as a life time vocation.”

In 2010 MOFA claimed to have created 47,000 jobs for the youth via its Block Farm initiative. Within a few months after the first announcement this figure shot up to 80,000. Independent visits by journalists to the block farms, however, indicated that the workers on the Block Farms were in fact existing farmers with no indication of the “massive” youth employment as claimed by the GOG.

It is essential that the true facts and figures are determined in 2012. If farming is not creating new jobs for the youth, the big question is what has been achieved in terms of creating new jobs since 2009.

Land Grabs
The issue of land grabs are coming into the limelight every now and again. Various organisations including Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Oxfam. According to Oxfam the increasing number of land deals are displacing farmers and leaving poor communities homeless.

FSG has previously reported that foreign companies have grabbed 37 percent of Ghana's cropland for questionable biofuel production. This article was based on data provided in the FOE report.

Although the above figure of 37 percent has been questioned by the GOG, no independent commission of enquiry into the true situation in Ghana has been ordered by the government. To the contrary it looks as if further “land grabbing” is openly promoted under the banner of foreign investment.

It is essential that the truth about this situation is established in 2012 and that clear policy guidelines with regards to the acquisition of land by foreign investors is formulated.

Efficiency of Foreign Aid Deployment
It was revealed that 50 percent of the MOFA budget for 2012 consists of foreign aid. Much has been said about inefficient, ineffective and corrupt application of foreign aid in developing countries.

It is estimated that Ghana received US$ 1.394 billion Official Development Assistance in 2006. Although FSG is yet to investigate the actual application of these funds, it is clear that there is little transparency and ODA reporting available to the public.

If 50 percent of the MOFA budget indeed comes from foreign sources, it is essential to see how these funds have in fact been employed. Inefficient and ineffective employment of these funds will mean that the GOG is in fact not spending the promised 10 percent of its budget on Agriculture.

Investment in Agriculture and Research
Everybody is in agreement that the two most important factors for ensuring a food secure future are the levels of investment in agriculture, and the levels in agricultural research.

In a recent article on Poverty Matters (guardian.co.uk/) the following situation was spelled out as follows:

Agriculture is also in desperate need of capital investment. Price caps on food products stymie the incentives that propel farmers to plant crops, invest in the long-term and innovate as small-scale entrepreneurs. Investment in improved access to tools, inputs, agronomic information and markets would help them increase productivity in a sustainable and responsible manner. In short, a change of perception of smallholder farmers is needed.

Even though AGRA reported that Ghana has achieved the agreed 10 percent of national budget spend on agriculture by 2009, the question is whether this budget spend is in fact in the right areas, and whether it is really achieving the desired goals.

In terms of spending on agricultural research all indications are that the 2012 budget is not sufficient as indicated by the Minister's statement that the finance ministry must look at modalities to ensure the availability for agricultural research.

Questions relating to actual levels of spending, areas of spending and effectiveness of spending on agriculture and research must be answered in 2012.

Promises, Promises, Promises
The year 2012 is election year in Ghana. It is the year when the incumbent government is going to show Ghanaians how well it has performed with renewed promises of unheard-of-prosperity if they are elected.

It is also the year when the opposition will convince Ghanaians that the government has failed to deliver on its promises and that a change in government will propel Ghana into “wealth, health and happiness.”

FSG will monitor all 2012 claims and counterclaims in the area of food security and endeavour to bring Ghanaians insight into the true situation.

As they say, there are three sides to a coin: The government's side, the opposition's side and the truth.

In the next version of “Issues to track in 2012” FSG will look deeper into the issue of “self-sufficiency” and the use of trade protectionism in the rice and poultry industries in Ghana.

Food Security Ghana