Ghanaian News

Restrict food imports to protect farmers – Dr Akoto urges Parliament

The immediate past Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has urged Parliament to, as a matter of urgency, prioritise the protection of local farmers and industries in their agenda by restricting food imports into the country.

He said the absence of a Legislative Instrument (L.I)) restricting food imports into Ghana was causing a lot of havoc to players in the agricultural sector, especially the poultry, rice and palm oil industries.

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At the launch of the 70th anniversary celebration of the Faculty of Agriculture, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) yesterday, the former Minister of Food and Agriculture said ongoing widespread protests across Europe where farmers had mounted aggressive complaints against their governments for rising prices of fertiliser and other farm inputs and declining farm incomes should spur the legislature to swiftly act to protect the interest of the country’s local farmers.

Dr Akoto spoke on the theme: “Recent developments in agricultural policy in Ghana”.

Critical
Describing the situation as critical, which demands urgent attention, the Cambridge University Scholar highlighted a scenario where in 2021 Ghanaian poultry farmers competed with their foreign counterparts by producing chicken at an estimated cost of GHS26.00 per kilo against imported chicken that was sold at GHS16.00 per kilo.

The difference in prices, Dr Akoto noted, put Ghana’s local poultry farmers at a disadvantaged position, stressing that “the chicken importers are landing their products in Ghana heavily subsidised by the countries of origin”.

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“Our farmers are heavily disadvantaged under the current import regime.

They desperately need a level playing field in order to compete effectively with their counterparts abroad.

What is currently playing out in Europe, especially, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland among many other countries, where farmers are up in arms protesting vehemently against their governments for rising fertiliser prices and declining farm incomes, should be a lesson to our legislature to act as a matter of urgency to restrict food imports which are being dumped on the Ghanaian markets against the interest of our farmers,” he noted.

Local farmers
Dr Akoto, who has worked in the UN Systems for over 18 years said it was only when an L.I. restricting food imports into the country were introduced and implemented that local farmers could produce more to boost food production, thereby sustaining the country’s food security.

He said the current regime where local farmers competed with their counterparts abroad was killing businesses and urged Parliament to reconsider the L.I. restricting the 22 import items of which 12 were food imports it rejected.

In November 2023, the Minister of Trade and Industry, K. T. Hammond, laid in Parliament a Legislative Instrument (L.I.) on the Export and Import of (Restrictions on Importation of Selected Strategic Product) Regulations, 2023.

The proposed ban or restrictions on imports were on 22 items, including rice, guts and stomach of animals, poultry, animal and vegetable oil, margarine, fruit juices, soft drinks, mineral water, noodles and pasta, ceramic tiles, corrugated paper and paper board, mosquito coil and insecticides, soaps and detergents, motor cars, iron, steel and cement.

Others
The rest were polymers (plastics and plastic products), fish, sugar, clothing and apparel, biscuits and canned tomatoes.

The proposed legislation empowers the Minister of Trade and Industry to issue licences to potential importers of goods.

However, the proposal was shot down by the legislature.

Critics of the policy said if the policy had gone through, it would have given too much power to the Trade minister and created room for corruption.

Dr Akoto, who is also a former two-term Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwadaso, said the timing of the introduction of the L.I restricting food imports was apt considering the impact free access to the Ghanaian market was having on local farmers.

The 70th anniversary celebration is a momentous milestone in the history of the Faculty of Agriculture, KNUST.

The week-long celebrations, beginning on February 13, 2024 to February 17, 2024, would bring together alumni, students, faculty, staff, esteemed guests and other stakeholders who have contributed to the success of the faculty.

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