By: Linda Dede Nyanya Godji
Ghana recorded its first corona virus cases on March 12, 2020 involving a Norwegian Embassy official and another Ghanaian working in Turkey, both of whom returned to Ghana in the previous week. Since then the country keeps recording new cases on a daily basis. The initial confirmed cases were recorded in Accra, Tema and Obuasi causing fear and panic among the populace. As at today, April 1, 2020, the total confirmed cases stand at 106, comprising 106 cases discovered through general surveillance of the population, 79 others were also recorded among 1030 returnees put under compulsory quarantine and 10 Guinean nationals put on quarantine in Tamale.
In view of the increases in the recorded cases, government announced some measures to curb a total outbreak of the disease. The first was to impose a ban on all social gatherings including festivals, conferences, funerals, weddings and all religious activities. Schools have also been closed indefinitely. With Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi Now described as epic centres of the virus, government announced further enhanced measures in those areas, culminating in the imposition of restrictions on movements for a period of three weeks.
The question is as the fear and panic continues in the midst of a steadily increasing confirmed cases, what will be the adverse effect on players in the food value chain?
Are our farmers still fully aware of the task ahead and the full implication of this crisis?
What are we doing differently in these times of crisis in our food value chain?
What are the policy directions?
Impact on the importation of food
Ghana imports majority of its food supply ranging from rice, cooking oils and poultry. With our major trading partners in emergency and lockdowns, it is obvious that supply from these countries will reduce or better still the available ones will be for the highest bidders.
Impact on Local food production
The crisis is hitting Ghana in its farming season and with the restriction in movement in Accra and Kumasi, the distribution of farm produce or suppliers will be adversely affected.
Even long before the partial lockdown was announced, most traders who transport farm produce from farms to the major cities have decided to either slow or halt that process because of the scare of contracting the virus from the major cities. This resulted in price hikes of foodstuffs. “Gari” which is one of the cheapest foods in Ghana has become so expensive as the price has tripled in a matter of days.
Despite the exemptions given to the food sector during the lockdown, these traders are still not actively seen in the transportation of foodstuffs to the cities, hence the prices of food still on the higher side and the ordinary Ghanaian not able to afford.
In Ghana, about 90% of the food we eat or prepare are fresh from the farm and not processed and if fresh foods are not coming from the farms to the markets and homes in the cities how can the ordinary Ghanaian live?
Farmers into perishable commodities would be hit the most.
Reports from some farmers in the upper East region show that their produce are going waste especially for the pepper farmers as traders are scared of contracting the virus.
Are farmers sensitized on the need to increase production? Have we put in place the needed plans and support systems to boost increased production? Let your answers linger in your mind.
The truth is we cannot and we should not use ordinary measures and practices to solve extraordinary problems.
The most reliable way to solve the problem will be to boost local production by aggressively engaging with farmers to understand the possible crisis ahead for an increased production and diversification to more production of food crops and crops with short span. These engagements should be backed by actions and policies to increase farming supplies including fertilizers and weedicides to boost production.
As strategies to boost food production are put in place, there is also the need to consider the possible post-harvest losses that come with it. This we cannot afford to entertain hence, measures need to be taken to ensure proper and adequate storing of farm produce. Government warehouse projects will be important than ever.
This is the time for planning, government through the ministry of Food and Agriculture must as a matter of urgency meet with the relevant stakeholders including farmers who are on the ground to come out with the right strategies to reduce the possible food security issues that are likely to stare in our faces especially during post Covid- 19.