Ghana risks a shortage of some agric produce particularly rice in the latter part of this year into 2021 if the government fails to build the capacity of players in the local rice value chain to boost production.
This is according to the Executive Director of Western Deedew Group Limited, a local rice production company in the Western Region.
Speaking in an interview, the Executive Director, Mr Kwabena Amofa Akuoko, said due to the coronavirus pandemic, countries in Asia and America where Ghana imports about 60% of rice for local consumption, are going to hoard the product to feed their citizens.
“Where we import our food from especially that of rice is basically from Asia and America. Now we know how devastating this pandemic has been and they have already signalled us that they are no longer going to export their rice and other commodities to us. This means that we should expect some deficit in terms of the amount we need in the country. Already, we are just producing around 40 per cent while we import 60 per cent from other countries,” he stated.
He consequently explained that investing a huge chunk of Ghana’s COVID-19 stimulus package into the agriculture sector to boost local production will save the situation.
“So, if the other countries have told you in clear words that they will no longer export to you, then it should be a major concern to all of us. What I’m calling for is that there should be a percentage of the 600 million Ghana cedis that has been earmarked for industries that should go strictly into agric. I suggest about 50 per cent of it should be earmarked for agricultural activities so that we can plant more to make room for the deficit we are envisaging. If that is not taken into consideration, then what will happen is that getting to the tail end of the year and into 2021, there is going to be a major food crisis in this country,” he warned.
Mr Amofa Akuoko advised the government to take advantage of the COVID-19 situation to reduce the country’s overreliance on imports.
“Right now, what we are consuming is what we planted last year which has been carried forward to this year. But because we are not able to plant more this year and because we will not be able to import from other countries then there is a looming crisis which I think we should all see and start putting measures in place so that we will not be in a bad situation come next year,” he said.
“With Agriculture, we deal with seasons. The season is not waiting for us. The season is passing so by the time COVID-19 is over the season might have passed and that will affect us although you may try to cultivate. But you know everything is good in its season so it is better you take advantage of the problem and build local capacities in Ghana so that we cut this over-reliance on importation.”
“They [International producers] have not been going to work. They are not planting so they are depending upon what they already have to feed their country. They would not have excess to now export to Ghana and other countries that is why in Nigeria they are putting serious measures in place but I have not seen anything of that sort in Ghana aside from the rhetoric,” he added.
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, sectors of the economy have been largely hit, businesses have slowed down while financial conditions have tightened.
Meanwhile, the government has introduced various stimulus packages to bring relief to Ghanaians. These include a one billion cedis stimulus package to support Ghanaians and industry, a 600 million Ghana cedis soft loan for small scale businesses.
Also, free water for three months and reduced electricity tariffs for three months for specific consumers, as well as a complete waiver on electricity bills for lifeline consumers amongst others.
COVID-19 stimulus package must go to critical areas – Economist
Meanwhile, earlier this month, Economist, Dr Lord Mensah, urged the government to direct its incentives aimed at mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 on businesses to critical sectors of the economy such as agro-processing.
He cautioned that even though players in the hospitality and tourism industry are asking for support, injecting funds into those areas may not yield immediate results since the economy will take a while to fall back to normalcy.