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Post-COVID-19: Your food will come from Wenchi

BY: Kojo Frempong
The writer
The writer

When the world returns to normalcy again, the food we eat must, at least, be produced in Ghana, specifically Wenchi and other municipalities like that across the country.

Wenchi has a population of 120,000 people who are mostly farmers. These amazing people grow staples we eat all year round, including maize, yams and cassava. These days, cashew has taken the front seat, leading mango as two cash crops that potentially can make farmers make a living out of their toil.

However, farming has been a ‘tough activity’ for years and agriculture, despite the humongous benefits it gives Ghana from the provision of food to employment, has been underwhelming in capturing the conscience of Ghanaians as a very essential activity. 

Enter COVID-19

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, as a result of the global pandemic, shut the country’s borders and restricted the movement of Ghanaians. 

An extremely wise decision celebrated the world over but not without its externalities. With China and Europe, two of Ghana’s major trading blocs, hit hard by COVID-19, Ghana has to drastically reduce dependency on foreign imports, including food, medicines and a whole lot that the country needs and craves.

The President has forever emphasised the need for self-sufficiency in the Ghana Beyond Aid blueprint and COVID-19 has only served to catalyse that transformative vision.

The pharmaceutical industry has especially been a benefactor of this illuminating idea. The incredible demand for hand sanitisers spiked prices as it was deemed an essential item to stem the unbridled spread of the coronavirus.

Faced with this chronic shortage, the pharmaceutical companies, led by indigenous stalwarts such as Samuel Amo Tobin of TOBINCO and Entrance Pharmaceuticals, and entrepreneurs like Daniel Mckorley of McDan Group of Companies, spun into action.

The result? The production of sanitisers met the country’s demand and prices were restored.

Cloning

In the pursuit of solutions to the myriad of problems we are faced with in Ghana, it would appear that replicating the leadership of the President on COVID-19 is one sure way to find our true north not least in agriculture, and that is where Wenchi comes in.

The EXIM Bank has advanced Entrance Pharmaceuticals and Research Centre, the manufacturing arm of Tobinco Ghana Limited, $5 million to bolster its manufacturing potential of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin, the drug anecdotally acclaimed in Europe and America to treat COVID-19 patients.

The bank intends to extend its support to nine other sectors of the economy to help resuscitate our fortunes post-COVID-19. Some of the thematic areas include poultry, agro-processing, cassava, maize and cashew.

It sure feels like the bank intentionally singled out the Wenchi Constituency for investment. There is no one place in Ghana where you can find poultry, maize, cassava and cashew all present in commercial quantities.

Indeed, Wenchi has been christened by President Akufo-Addo as the ‘Cashew Capital’ of Ghana and these days, mangoes are also making a big push for the attention of the people as a major cash crop.

Maize, cassava and yams have been farmed on the land for a century. Added to these remarkable features in Wenchi is 15,000 acres of farmland which used to belong to State Farms.

New paradigm 

The approach to investing in Wenchi must mimic the Entrance Pharmaceuticals and Research Centre example by EXIM Bank. The time has come to incubate ‘big agriculture’ or the so-called ‘Big A’ in Wenchi. The new paradigm must necessarily incorporate in its DNA, thousands of acres under cultivation, meaningful capital and the deployment of relevant technology.

The focus of this new paradigm should be exports and must necessarily meet the global standards for exportation out of Ghana. 

The import figures must be a burden on our collective conscience as Ghanaians. Some figures say in 2018, we spent $1.1 billion dollars on rice brought in from China, India, Thailand et al.

We are still buying some $347 million dollars of chicken products from Brazil and The Netherlands, chiefly broilers and cut chicken parts.

African opportunity

The truth is there is a new African opportunity which requires Ghana to become a production hub of food to export and not just consume.

Subsistence-based smallholder farming will not be able to radically supply the food we need. A more commercial approach is what will bring us the economic acceleration we urgently seek.

Rice, yams, maize, wheat, cashew, mangoes and their attendant value chain development will revolutionise the job-creation agenda of farming and places like Wenchi will become an example of Ghanaian agricultural excellence.

Admittedly, the Investing for Food and Jobs Programme by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture integrates various dimensions of this new paradigm as part of its approach.

However, we must emphasise farming companies who know how to produce food at scale and empower them.

We must intentionally invest in the likes of TOBINCO (Entrance Pharmaceuticals and Research Centre), who are in agriculture and are indigenous Ghanaian companies that can be heralded in West Africa and Africa at large.

The Writer g is a Presidential Staffer and an aspiring NPP parliamentary candidate for the Wenchi Constituency in the Bono Region.