Ghana: Otokunor writes – The tragic saga of food inflation in Ghana: empty plates and empty promises

Despite the billions of cedis invested in the PFJ program, farmers continue to face a myriad of challenges, ranging from lack of access to quality inputs and extension services, poor post-harvest management, inadequate market linkages and price volatility.

As Ghana grapples with skyrocketing food prices, a harsh reality is revealing itself: the NPP government’s lofty promises of prosperity under a production tax regime have left many citizens with nothing. and empty stomachs.

The harsh truth is that ignorance, incompetence, mismanagement, corruption and wanton dissipation of limited public resources have led to a relentless surge in food prices. We are now grappling with an insidious food crisis that threatens the country’s food security.

Food shortages and, moreover, food inflation are pushing the most vulnerable sections of society towards hunger, despite claims of agricultural transformation through the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) program.

Food prices have spiraled out of control under the leadership of the NPP, leaving millions of Ghanaians on the brink of starvation. Food inflation has reached unprecedented levels, peaking at 61% in 2023 and 29.6% in 2024.

Essential products such as vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, onions, plantains, cabbages), rice, plantains and cassava have become unaffordable luxuries for the average citizen. Meanwhile, the ruling elite feasts on the spoils of corruption and greed, while the dignity of ordinary citizens is destroyed by an indifferent government.

Several factors have contributed to this surge in food prices. One of the main factors is the over-reliance on imported food products. We currently import over $400 million worth of tomatoes each year from Burkina Faso, or over 800,000 metric tons of tomatoes per year. Despite Ghana’s agricultural potential, our agricultural sector faces major challenges, most of which are management.

This over-reliance on imported food is due to declining local production due to high cost and insufficient supply of inputs such as fertilizers, poor quality seeds, lack of mechanization, lack of extension services and the unavailability of agro-credit for agriculture. The consequence is the inherent vulnerability of the economy to exchange rate volatility and international price fluctuations.

The depreciation of the Ghana cedi against major currencies has exacerbated the situation, making imports more expensive and pushing up local food prices.

The roots of this crisis lie in the government’s inability to implement coherent agricultural policies and provide effective leadership in times of crisis. The much-vaunted Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) initiative, currently in its second phase, has been managed in an ad hoc manner, without proper policy guidelines, ineffective monitoring systems and flawed reporting mechanisms.

The PFJ has become a haven for rent-seeking supporters due to the opaque nature of its implementation. Additionally, allegations of mismanagement and corruption have marred the initiative, sparking skepticism about the government’s commitment to tackling the root causes of the food crisis.

Despite the billions of cedis invested in the program, farmers continue to face a multitude of challenges, ranging from lack of access to quality inputs and extension services, poor post-harvest management, poor linkages inadequate market conditions and price volatility.

The PFJ was established through a Canadian facility secured by HE President John Dramani Mahama in 2016 (under which 50 tractors were delivered to support the Agricultural Mechanization Service Centers: AMSEC) to give further impetus to the gains carried out within the framework of METASIP. 2014 – 2017 (Medium-term investment policy in the agricultural sector).

The initiative, initially announced as an NPP campaign slogan, was launched without any stakeholder consultation or proper assessment of the METASIP framework to learn from experiences to establish appropriate linkages.

It is instructive to note that Ghana’s main agricultural policy, the Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP I and II), which was initially promulgated in 2002 (amended in 2007) under GPRS I and II after the abandonment of Vision 2020., was the backbone of the success of METASIP I and II from 2009 to 2016, which led to the longest period of lowest food inflation and, therefore, inflation at a figure in Ghana after several decades.

Although I am of the opinion that the FASDEP has outlived its usefulness and requires immediate reconstruction to meet the current food security needs of the country, the PFJ has proven to be very inconsistent in its results, compared to the objectives and objectives. provisions of FADEP II.

At present, there is no comprehensive report officially promulgated by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture on PFJ I, but we have been told that a PFJ II has been launched, similarly way without any properly promulgated policy framework. It appears that the government is more interested in sacrificing the need for a strong, achievable and sustainable agricultural development program for the sake of cheap partisan gains and unnecessary political slogans.

Adding insult to injury, the government’s short-sighted measures have worsened the suffering of ordinary Ghanaians. The hasty and ill-timed attempt to restrict the importation of certain food products, supposedly intended to promote domestic production, backfired spectacularly, leading to severe shortages and soaring prices.

Poor infrastructure, lack of access to modern agricultural techniques and inadequate support for smallholder farmers continue to hamper agricultural production. Rather than fostering an enabling environment for agricultural growth and innovation, these knee-jerk measures have worsened the crisis, leaving ordinary Ghanaians to bear the brunt of the government’s folly.

Behind the statistics and economic analyzes lies the human toll of Ghana’s food inflation crisis. The impacts of rising food prices are devastating, particularly for low-income households who spend a significant portion of their income on food. Many families are forced to reduce their daily meals, leading to increased malnutrition and food insecurity.

Nutritional deficits resulting from reduced food consumption are particularly detrimental to children, leading to stunted growth and long-term health problems. Some families are forced to make heartbreaking choices between feeding their children and providing for other essential needs like education and health care.

The World Food Program (WFP) has reported that nearly 2 million Ghanaians are at risk of severe famine, in stark contrast to the country’s previous achievements in reducing poverty and improving food security .

As the gap between rich and poor widens, the government’s ineptitude and indifference to the plight of its citizens constitute a damning indictment of its leaders. This tragic saga of food inflation and empty plates highlights a complex interplay of broken promises, maladministration, leadership paralysis and lack of vision of the Akufo Addo/Bawumia government.

Addressing Ghana’s food inflation crisis requires a multi-dimensional approach that goes beyond temporary solutions and political slogans. Sustainable solutions must be prioritized to create a resilient agricultural sector, capable of withstanding economic and environmental challenges.

Improving agricultural productivity through better access to inputs, technology and training is crucial and can help reduce post-harvest losses and stabilize food supplies. Subregional collaborative efforts can also help strengthen food security and trade, to provide protection against external shocks.

Key metrics may include:

1. Invest in agricultural infrastructure: improved roads, improved input supply, cheaper input sources, mechanization, storage facilities and irrigation systems to support farmers and reduce post-harvest losses.