For some weeks now, Ghanaians have had to endure escalating prices of goods and services, as the government had resorted to blamestorming on why we are in this situation.
Over the years, they have been the talk of consuming what we produce and producing what we consume, but like many of this, it has only been rhetoric without any concrete action, based on deliberate effort.
It is about time to start assessing the impact of agriculture and other policies on the economy in this global crisis.
It is pertinent to point out that Ghana spent a huge sum on the importation of food items that could be produced locally.
Analysis of trade data for the past 9 years (2011 -2019) reveals that food commodities, vehicles, machinery, electrical appliance, and plastics are among the leading imported products classes in Ghana. Actually, the top 10 imported products (excluding minerals and oil and gas) across the years constitute over 84% of the total imports, valued at an average of GHC 23 billion each year.
The finance minister, Ken Ofori-Atta at a press briefing yesterday, outlined measures the government has put in place to mitigate the suffering of Ghanaians, which was brought about by several factors, including the war in Ukraine, but the measures is just adhoc and we will only be back to where we are in few months time.
The war in Ukraine, has further made consumers vulnerable, especially lovers of bread. Ukraine and Russia represent around 10 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively, of global wheat production, and nearly 30 per cent of all wheat exports come from these two countries.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, concerns about supply disruptions have pushed up wheat prices on the Chicago Board of Trade by over 50 per cent to nearly US$13 per bushel. Prices rose by the maximum possible allowed by the board for the first five trading days of March — an unprecedented increase.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, what is happening in Ukraine, with a cascading effect on food prices, has presented an opportunity for the country to start thinking of using cassava to prepare flour.
The use of cassava flour in bread making is a convenient alternative for promoting the use of a local crop, as well as reducing imports of wheat flour, promoting the production of high quality cassava flour, offering a gluten-free product and developing biofortified and fortified foods.
We have cassava in abundance; it is one crop that is planted all year round. Consequently, we urge government to urgently empower willing local manufacturers to go into the production of cassava and cassava flour.
Our research institutions, such as the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) should be adequately funded to carry out this national assignment.
As has been pointed out earlier, there are positive indicators that this is doable: in other words Ghana can handle the looming food shortage by tapping into the ingenuity of its citizens.