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Feature Article of Friday, 13 January 2012

Columnist: Food Security Ghana

Food Security Ghana - Issues to track in 2012 (Part I)

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 the what it is all about - food
security.


Food Security Ghana (FSG) has stated what food security is all about but
many times in the past, but lets 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 can¹t 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
Ghana¹s 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.
³Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics²
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 can¹t be measured.


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


During the period 2010 to 2011 the country¹s 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 bee 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 government¹s 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 crisis.


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 country¹s 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 government¹s reaction has been to announce an
intention to ban the import of poultry produce to stop ³dumping² 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 government¹s Youth in Agriculture Programme
(YIAP). According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) the ³YIAP
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.²


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 ³massive² 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 Ghana¹s 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 ³land
grabbing² 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 the 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 Minister¹s 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 ³wealth, health and happiness.²


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 government¹s side, the
opposition¹s side and the truth.


In the next version of ³Issues to track in 2012² FSG will look deeper into
the issue of ³self-sufficiency² and the use of trade protectionism in the
rice and poultry industries in Ghana.



Food Security Ghana
http://foodsecurityghana.com

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