Blog about the upcoming food shortage crisis

Everybody throws stones at the prophet, but when the crisis comes they yell: “Why nobody warned us?”

The looming food crisis – how ready is Ghana?

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Myjoyonline Ghana News Photos | Kenkey - a Ghanaian staple.
Kenkey – a Ghanaian staple.
There are clear signs on the wall that the world is in crisis. There is food crisis in most parts of the world, and the World Bank is already concerned that there would be food prices related conflicts and riots in some parts of the world.

The crisis is not necessarily as a result of shortage of food, but the rise in world food and energy prices. This would exacerbate world hunger and malnutrition, and Ghana could be affected, unless the appropriate steps are taken.

On March 7 2008, I wrote an article titled, ‘Rise in world food prices has implications for Ghana’, drawing attention to the possible ripple effects of the rise in world food prices on Ghana. The article was published on myjoyonline. And if readers’ comments to stories on this site is the basis for determining the popularity of stories published, then that article received very little attention, because there is only a single reader’s comment to that story. Probably, the warning was not strong enough to generate any public interest.

But as I write, only last Tuesday April 1, 2008, a riot broke out in Cote d’ Ivoire over rising food prices leading to one death and injury to about 10 others, forcing President Gbagbo to cancel custom duties and cut taxes on household products.

The BBC reported riots in other West African countries including Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Senegal.

And the World Bank estimates 33 countries face potential social unrest because of rising food and energy prices.

How ready is Ghana to avert any such crisis resulting from the rise in world food prices which the government has no control over?

Wheat and rice prices for delivery in March 2008 have jumped to an all-time record, soyabean prices are at a 34-year high and corn prices at an 11-year peak.

The new benchmark prices for corn are also more than 5 per cent higher than previously. Corn for March 2008 rose to $4.43¼ a bushel, the highest level in 11 years for a front-month contract.

For instance, the US Department of Agriculture has predicted that global corn stocks will fall to a 33-year low of just 7.5 weeks of consumption, while global wheat stocks will plunge to their lowest level in at least 47 years at 9.3 weeks.

In response to the dire situation the prices are expected to engender, the President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick was reported by the BBC to have said that the top priority in addressing the challenge was to give the UN World Food Programme an extra $500m for emergency food aid.

And the World Bank president also believes that funds should be made available to help build local food markets and boost agricultural productivity which could create a “green revolution” for sub-Saharan Africa.

Zoellick said “The poor need lower food prices now. But the world’s agricultural trading system is stuck in the past.”

“If ever there was a time to cut distorting agricultural subsidies and open markets for food imports it must be now.”

The WFP however, sees an opportunity in the crisis. They argue that, the rise in food prices opens up a market for small holder farmers to make more money for their produce. That also opens up agriculture to investments because it has become profitable.

Investments in irrigation, high yielding seeds, equipment and training in human resources for the sector has now become lucrative because of the possible high return on investments in the sector due to the high prices for food.

Cote d’ Ivoire is next door to Ghana, and I hope the incidents there can and should serve as a warning to us.

‘A stitch in time’, the sages say, ‘saves nine’. Ghana can’t afford to play games with the reality staring us right in the face. By now a national programme to address the issue should be rolled out and all stakeholders should be involved, because the good people of Ghana can’t afford to wait for the worse to happen.

Authored by Emmanuel K. Dogbevi



April 4, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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