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National plan for food security must be enhanced

BY: Daily Graphic
National plan for food security must be enhanced
National plan for food security must be enhanced

Food security is a national security issue and that is why any discussion to ensure that there is enough food to feed the population must be of great importance.

That explains the importance of the agricultural sector and the justification for the government to continue to invest substantial funds in that sector.

Recently, four agricultural sector groupings warned of imminent food crisis next year and urged the government to do more to increase investment in domestic food production to avert the crisis.

Their warning was predicated on the rising cost of cultivating food crops, farming inputs such as chemicals, fertiliser, improved seeds, mechanisation, among others.

They advised the government to increase investment in domestic food production, institute measures to provide soft loans and also subsidise mechanisation and other inputs for farmers.

It is a fact that over the past five years, since the implementation of the flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs, a lot of investment has been made and significant food has been produced within the period.

During that period, there was enough subsidised fertiliser and improved seeds, while mechanisation was reasonably low.

Consequently, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food was not really felt, as there was sufficient food in the country.

Unfortunately, this year, fertiliser, which is a critical component of food crops farming, is hard to come by, and even where it is available, the price is skyrocketing. This means government budget for the subsidised input cannot secure enough for farmers.

This is where the Daily Graphic believes the groups could have a genuine concern and so it is important that the Ministry of Food and Agriculture see the caution of the groups as useful information to work with, instead of dismissing the concerns.

While agreeing with the sector Minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, that the current high cost of food items is an annual ritual around this time of the year, and that the projection of the four groups is premature, we still think that considering the increased cost of farming this year, it may be more serious next year than what we are experiencing this year.

The truth really is that farming has become expensive because the cost of every aspect of it has more than doubled and the farmer needs twice what he or she should have ordinarily spent to be able to cultivate a piece of land.

Consequently, most farmers have reduced the sizes of their farms to be able to finance the production of food crops.

This, surely, means that production is reduced, while demand increases, just as we are witnessing currently in the country concerning rising food prices.

The Daily Graphic wishes to suggest that as the lean farming season is about starting, the government should sacrifice and invest a little more on farming inputs, particularly fertiliser and seeds, as it has done over the last five years, so that farmers can still afford to buy them.

As of now, a 50kg bag of fertiliser that was selling around GH¢160 goes for GH¢400, while ploughing or harrowing an acre of land, which cost GH¢120 last year, on average, has now shot up to GH¢250.

The Daily Graphic also thinks that aside from the suggestions by the four groups, the government should look seriously at the roads leading to farming areas to ensure that the farmers do not have to spend so much to cart their produce to the market centres.

Additionally, it should ensure that the warehouses it has taken delivery are put to good use, such that farmers can store their crops there, instead of having to sell them at give-away prices during the harvesting season.

It is also our hope that the Grains Development Authority Bill will be passed and assented to before the end of this year to enable the authority to carry out its mandate to ensure food security in the country.

We acknowledge the commitment so far shown by the government in the agricultural sector and believe that it is in the right direction, for which reason it should not be detracted to cause any reversal of the gains so made in the sector.

Issues on food should be a national concern and be tackled in a non-partisan manner because they affect all of us.

Let it be known that when it appears that some are eating enough and others are starving, that is a recipe for disaster.