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Provide NAFCO with required financial support - Speaker urges govt

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman
Hanan Abdul-Wahab (left), CEO of NAFCO, interacting with Alban Bagbin, Speaker of Parliament. Picture: ERNEST KODZI
Hanan Abdul-Wahab (left), CEO of NAFCO, interacting with Alban Bagbin, Speaker of Parliament. Picture: ERNEST KODZI

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has urged the government to provide the National Food Buffer Stock Company (NAFCO) with the required financial support to enable it to achieve its objectives.

He said one of the biggest challenges facing the company was lack of funding, hence the need for such support.

Mr Bagbin made the call during a visit to the NAFCO head office in Accra yesterday[June 23, 2022] to acquaint himself with the operations of the company.

No commercial funding

The Speaker said it would not be proper to open the company up to commercial sources of funding.

“Financial support will enable the company to reach out to farm gates to mop up excess food that is getting wasted and help keep affordable prices,” he stated.

Middlemen

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NAFCO, Alhaji Hanan Abdul-Wahab, said middlemen in the business of the purchase of grains and other food commodities were creating artificial food shortages in the country.

He said while there was sufficient food in the system, the purchase and the control of the supply of foodstuffs by some few individuals were largely contributing to price escalation, thereby allowing such individuals to make unrealistic profits.

He blamed the worrying situation on the inability of the government to adequately buy and stock food items at farm gate prices during the peak of harvests to ensure price stabilisation.

“Food is available, but some middlemen in the food grain business have taken advantage of buying large quantities of commodities to create artificial shortages just to shoot up prices,” he said.

Curbing menace

Alhaji Abdul-Wahab was optimistic that the ability of the government to help buy more food commodities at farm gate prices would curb the menace.

The unannounced visit was to allow Mr Bagbin to learn at firsthand the state of the company and the challenges impacting its smooth operations and what steps needed to be taken to redress them.

The CEO said what motivated farmers to produce more was the availability of market.

He, however, said the government had failed to buy farm produce in large quantities to stock, a situation that had paved the way for foreigners to buy the food items.

“Food shortages will only arise when farmers are unable to produce or they produce but are unable to sell.

Once there is trading, we will produce, but we have to deal with this issue of middlemen and try as much as possible to stop foreigners from buying,” he said.

He, therefore, called for the payment of realistic farm gate prices to farmers to stock sufficient commodities.

He said the introduction of the government’s Planting for Food and Jobs initiative would position it to buy and stock food for the sub-region.

He expressed the optimism that NAFCO would be able to buy more food items, stressing that the delay in the payment to caterers of the school feeding programme would then become a thing of the past.

Price stability

Alhaji Abdul-Wahab indicated that buffer stock had been able to stabilise stocks in the country, in line with ECOWAS requirements, but what was left was for Ghana to buy and stock commodities to stop foreigners from taking advantage to buy commodities in Ghana.

He said mechanisms could be put in place to buy from farmers at farm gate prices that were higher than the cost of production incurred by farmers.

“Once we have our own stock, we will be able to hedge prices throughout the year without asking for increment,” he said.

Government’s commitment

With NAFCO being a non-subverted entity, he said, it had had to access loans, making it difficult to buy and keep food stocks over the years.

“We have to make profit in order to pay interest on the facilities. Issues of keeping stocks for national food security and reserves do not require you to go and take a loan because you are buying to keep for rainy days,” he said