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Business News of Saturday, 7 July 2007

Source: GNA

Cut in import tariffs will affect farmers - Survey

Accra, July 7, GNA - A survey has revealed that the import of tomato paste and chicken parts was having severe impact on the production of local tomatoes and poultry and any further tariff cut could drive peasant farmers out of their source of livelihood. Briefing the media in Accra on Friday, Ms Ute Hausmann, Policy Officer for Food First Information and Network Action (FIAN International), said substantial increase in tariffs was rather needed to ensure market access and adequate levels of income that would secure tomato and poultry production in the country.

She stated that FIAN's fact findings conducted in tomato and poultry producing districts in the Greater Accra Region, namely Koluedor and Ashaiman, revealed that if Ghana fixed its tariffs to agree with the ECOWAS Common External Tariff, Ghana would be infringing on provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights it ratified in 2000.

Ms Hausmann noted that the survey also showed that poultry production was at a high risk of collapsing, as most farmers had moved from the production of broilers to eggs due to the influx of imported chicken in markets.

She identified increase in price inputs as a major challenge to the farmers. "All of them complained that production costs have increased more than producer prices. For poor peasants, the increasing gap means that they will have to reduce their meals, since they have started running into debts."

She said the import surge of tomato paste mostly from Italy, Spain and Portugal was a threat to the local market, adding that this could lead to increased poverty levels in rural areas. According to her, annual imports had increased from 3,269 tons in 2003 to 24,740 tons now, while the domestic production of fresh tomatoes had stagnated or even declined. "The pre-condition for the development of a vibrant tomato sector would be a higher level of market protection and a simultaneous development of processing and canning infrastructure in the country," she added.

Ms. Hausmann said the survey also showed that Government's support for farmers in the sectors had not been encouraging and appealed to both Government and the international community to support the farmers to raise household incomes and improve food security. She appealed to Government to create a business environment where there was fair competition, reduce imports of chicken, provide access to favourable credit schemes and mitigate high cost of inputs prices. Mr. Mohammed Adam Nashiru, President of the Peasant Farmers Association, said despite various appeals made by the Association to Government, the challenge still persisted. He said it was sad to see the Ghanaian market dominated by unwholesome imported chicken parts, saying, "these foreign companies opt to export the meat, because it was cheaper for them to export than to destroy them".

Mr Nashiru said the Association hoped to engage the Parliamentary Select Committee on Agriculture to lobby for the passing of a bill to make agric-finance more accessible to farmers.