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Govt sets up committee to tackle rising food prices

BY: Severious Kale-Dery
From left to right(L-R): Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto — Minister of Food and Agriculture , Kwaku Ofori Asiamah — Minister of Transport , Alan Kyerematen — Minister of Trade and Industry, Cecilia Abena Dapaah — Acting Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection and Dan Botwe — Minister of Local Government
From left to right(L-R): Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto — Minister of Food and Agriculture , Kwaku Ofori Asiamah — Minister of Transport , Alan Kyerematen — Minister of Trade and Industry, Cecilia Abena Dapaah — Acting Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection and Dan Botwe — Minister of Local Government

Cabinet has set up a five-member ministerial committee to investigate the high prices of food items in the country in order to advise the government on actions to take to level-off prices.

The committee of Cabinet-rank ministers is to investigate and propose solutions for the pricing of food items to ease the burden on consumers.

The members are the Minister of Transport, Kwaku Asiamah; the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen; the Caretaker Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Cecilia Abena Dapaah; the Minister of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development, Dan Botwe, and the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto.

Dr Akoto, who disclosed this to the Daily Graphic, said the government was concerned about the rising food prices in the country, in spite of the adequate availability of food in production areas.

“There is food in the growing areas, and their markets have enough stocks,” he said, insisting that the rising food prices was not because of shortage but as a result of price formation.

He listed the high cost of fuel, the sky-rocketing cost of fertiliser as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as chemicals and farming inputs as some of the price build-up factors in the high cost of food items on the market.

Dr Akoto gave an assurance that the food situation in the country was solid, adding that “some people are just out there to make outrageous profit at the expense of both the farmer and the consumer”.

“This year, the rains have been excellent in this first cropping season, and so whatever we may lose because of the acute shortage of fertiliser, we will gain by the good rains that we are experiencing currently,” he said.

Stakeholder deliberation

The minister said a high-profile stakeholder deliberation at the instance of the Senior Advisor to the President, Yaw Osafo-Maafo, would be convened today to deliberate on the rising cost of food items.

The deliberation would be attended by the committee members, market queens, traders, transporters, truck drivers, among others, to deliberate on some data gathered by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture during an eight-day tour of five farming regions in the middle belt.

Dr Akoto said his visits to the Bono, Bono East, Ahafo, Ashanti and Eastern regions to ascertain the causes of the rising food prices and whether food was actually in short supply, indicated that there was no food shortage or imminent food shortage.

He explained that during an assessment of the food situation in the country within 10 major markets known for food items in the Bono East and the Ashanti regions, "we were able to take stock of 27,000 metric tonnes of maize waiting for buyers.

“So, this idea that high prices of food in the urban areas is due to the shortage of food is not true,” he stressed, adding that the 27,000 metric tonnes of maize were stocks from the closing stock for 2021.

He said with the harvesting season expected by the end of July, along with the closing stocks for 2021, “we expect that the food security situation will even be better and that prices will stabilise or may even go down”.

Available statistics

At the stakeholder deliberation, the minister is expected to make relevant statistics available for discussion to address the challenge of the increasing prices of food items.

For instance, the minister’s investigations had revealed that in Techimantia in the Ahafo Region, a medium size basket of tomatoes was selling at GH¢150, while the same size was going for GH¢400 in Kumasi.

“We brought back data of stocks of food, confirming that there is enough food in the system. We have brought back data to show the price formation, where prices of food items in the consuming areas are four times more than what we found in the producing areas, which we find very strange.

“This indicates that there is some market fixation going on, where somebody is making super normal profits,” Dr Akoto explained.

He said it would be an opportunity for the participants to discuss the way forward as to how government could stabilise food prices and reduce the rate of inflation in the country, which was hovering around 33 per cent lately.

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