By Reuben Quainoo
Chief Executive Officer for BEIT Farms Mr. Evans Larbi is asking the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to come to their aid in these trying moments as COVID-19 has locked their monies.
He said many of his colleagues are struggling to break even after contracting loans to maintain their farms and start planting as the major season begins.
“Most of our investors are locked up in monies; they are hesitant to invest in smallholder farming this year” he added.
Mr. Larbi pointed out that the announcement that markets would be closed to allow for fumigation exercises added to the panic.
“Amidst long queues and heavy congestion in the market soared food prices and all these profits did not come to the farmers; that tells us that our food supply in these difficult times is in trouble”.
“The situation will get worse if the COVID 19 situation persists for months. The hard reality facing us all is that Ghana is virtually sitting on a food security time bomb” he pointed out.
Mr. Larbi made these remarks in an exclusive interview with this reporter on Ghana’s Agricultural Sector, challenges smallholder farmers are facing and how Agribusiness sector players are not plateful.
He said the discussion had been that the youth could find employment in so many sectors but often times agriculture is being left out, the very sector that could employ the majority of the youth.
“Ghana has made a lot of progress in ensuring food for all over the last few years, but this COVID 19 Pandemic threatens to erode the massive gains that have been made by our hard-working smallholder farmers and others actors in the Agriculture Value Chain” he added.
The Chief Executive Officer said COVID 19 spread is negatively impacting Cashew, Maize, Cassava and Veggies a major export crop for Ghana that is grown by hundreds of thousands of farmers across the country.
“As a Farmer with great and passionate concern on what people will feed on till this crisis is over I demand on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to layout a COVID 19 Emergency Food Security Preparedness Plan and FUND; a strategy to ensure prices of food do not spiral out of control and to avoid hoarding; and a strategy to ramp up food production in these times when some farmers are not going out to the fields to harvest.
He added that the plan should include a “collaborative strategy among the different players in the food security value chain that ensures the food supply does not get cut during this lockdown.
“a clear policy direction on major agricultural innovations such as genetic engineering and genome editing, which has the potential of helping produce crops that are high-yielding, early-maturing, drought-tolerant, disease and pest-resistant must be introduced”
But speaking at a press briefing in Accra today Monday, the Minister said the lockdown will last for only two weeks, thus stocking up food is not necessary.
The Minister for Agriculture Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto advised Ghanaians against panic-buying in the wake of the lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.
“Don’t waste your money on unnecessary stock of food because the food will always be there. There is no need to stock up…Prices which has spiked over the weekend I can assure you by Monday is going to come down,” he said.