The sharp increase in maize prices requires urgent attention – Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana (CAG)

Maize is an important food crop in Ghana, accounting for more than 50 percent of the country’s total cereal production. Industries such as the poultry and breweries also uses maize as their raw materials. Rising population, urbanization, and growing poultry and fish sectors in Ghana have contributed to increased demand for maize. Maize as a food crop serves the country so well that being able to grow and harvest in large quantity can earn the country a fortune. According to the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), maize production in Ghana is currently facing 80 percent average yield gap, a situation threatening food security of the country. Different developmental projects have been initiated by past government and the current government to improve maize yield . Despite these efforts, the average maize yield in Ghana remains one of the lowest in the world as compared to similar interventions being carried by other countries.

Recently, concerns were raised by the poultry farmers across the country and other stakeholders over shortage of maize. They indicated that the shortage has resulted in a 66% increase in the price of a 50kg bag of maize since April 2018. Some stakeholders within the agricultural sector have shared their views on the depending issue. The Ghana Chamber of Agribusiness (GCA) has draw key points from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Ghana Poultry Farmers Association, and other stakeholders interviews. Aside the interviews granted by the above stakeholders, the Chamber has outlined other major reasons that have resulted in the current rise in the prices of maize in Ghana.

Poultry farmers across the country have poured out their heart over the shortage of maize in Ghana. They also stated that the shortage has led to a very sharp increase in the prices of maize and if immediate remedies are not given, their birds may starve to dead. The Brong Ahafo regional chairman of the Poultry Farmers Association stated in an interview that “If I don’t get maize for my 150,000 birds, they will die”. The Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr. George Oduro in an interview with Joy FM News responded to the concerns raised by the poultry farmers. He indicated that the increasing prices of maize is not a sign of shortage in the supply. He further explained that licensed maize buying companies have bought off the staple for poultry and will soon sell it to persons in need of the commodity. In essence, there is enough maize only it is stocked in warehouse but not on the market.

The president of the Poultry Farmers Association of Ghana, Nana Oppong Adjei has recently called on authorities to give them location to where these licensed maize buying companies warehouses are so they can follow to purchase maize for their poultry. The situation is so alarming that poultry farmers across Ghana are complaining about the shortage. Some farmers are of the opinion that government should waive taxes so importers can bring in maize to help solve the issue if government can’t help at the moment. The Ghana Chamber of Agribusiness has done an in depth study on this issue and can put on record that though Ghana couldn’t produce much as expected due to the fall armyworm that invaded the country recently, there is maize in some areas of Ghana though it prices has increased. This article is to outline some key reasons that the chamber believe it has contributed to the increase in prices of maize in Ghana.

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There were clear signals from last year that proved that Ghana could experience shortage in our maize production. Statistics from the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) and other sources showed the likelihood of where we are today. Fall armyworm invaded Ghana last year and as at May 26, 2017, the PPRSD reported that 18,219.07 hectares of maize farms were affected by the fall armyworm. An acre of maize farm (local breed) produces at least 8 bags while the hybrid one produces at least 18 bags. So assuming all the affected hectares of maize farms were local breeds and for that matter producing at least 8 bags per acre, this clearly shows the country lost over 100,000 bags of maize as at May, 2017. Fall armyworm has come to stay and finding a lasting solution to overcome it has become a global concern. The government’s flagship program, planting for food and jobs which is aimed at increasing yields of farmers hence reducing poverty, ensuring food security and also creating jobs has contributed in devise ways. The fall armyworm on the other hand has come to prevent the government’s policy from achieving it success fully. A number of preventive measures are given by people with expert opinion on the fall armyworm pest disease. Government should therefore see how best they can bring these experts on board so as to educate farmers on how to practice these measures. This will help reduce the damage these pest cause the yield.

The introduction of the 13000 license buyers across the country who are given licenses by the National Food Buffer Stock Company and who have been assigned to purchase the goods from farmers for storage purposes is causing artificial scarcity. The deputy minister’s response that license buying companies have bought off the staple for poultry and will soon sell it to persons in need of the commodity raises a lot of concerns. The Agribusiness Chamber is of the view that proper modalities should be set in place to regulate the supply of maize and other crops in the system. Prices of maize keeps increasing and so waiting on when the license buyers want to supply the commodity might cause more damage than the intended purposes. The Chamber believes the idea behind the 13000 license buyers is to set uniformity and standards in the supply and pricing of our commodities so delaying till buyers absorb everything in the system before supplying what they have at their warehouses is not the best approach.

Earlier this year, some writers highlighted the need for government to prevent some farmers from diverting food commodities to neighboring countries. Some beneficiaries of government subsidies were seen diverting food commodities such as maize and soya to neighboring countries like Burkina Faso and Togo. This was due to the strength of the CFA against the Cedi and also the easy connectivity between the northern regions and these countries. Subsidies are given to farmers to improve their livelihood and to also assist farmers to produce more to help in the fight against food security. Some farmers were seen doing things contrary to the intended purpose and there was the need for government to put in mechanism to stop that behavior but the trend continued for a while. Definitely this year farmers will harvest their plants and government must strengthen our boarders so as not to repeat the previous act.

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Poor access to quality and improved seeds. The role of seeds as an agricultural input technology cannot be underestimated as it is an indispensable input in any agricultural production system. Seeds are the most important input in any crop-based farming system. Seed quality determines the overall grain yield and the market value of the final product. Hence, improved seed should be considered as the most important technology that substantially contributes towards crop productivity irrespective of other inputs. Traditionally in Ghana, seeds were either exchanged from farmer-to-farmer or were sourced from local markets. Over time formal seed delivery systems have emerged, however the traditional or informal seed delivery systems are still in existence in most parts of Ghana. This informal seed system describes the process where farmers acquire seeds from traditional sources based on seed exchange or gift or purchase from other farmers and local markets. Comparatively, the informal seed system is not characterized, regulated and supervised by any private or public institution but dominated by smallholder farmers. The informal seed system comprises about 80 percent of the total seed system for most staple crops in Ghana. Within this informal system, seed varieties are selected, multiplied and distributed at the local level based on traditional knowledge. These local breeds produce at least 8 bags of maize per acre as against the hybrid that produces 18 bags and so a little challenge in it yield can cause the country a lot.

On the issue of late supply of agricultural inputs especially fertilizer, both supply-side and demand-side constraints affect the functioning and performance of the Ghanaian fertilizer markets. These constraints affect availability, accessibility and affordability of fertilizer in rural areas from one hand and the pull/demand on the other hand. On the supply side, number of companies actively pursuing Ghanaian market are few. This has contributed to the high price of fertilizers reaching farmers. Late delivery of fertilizers to farmers can be induced, as well as late payment of importers, which increases cost to the farmer.

The government’s flagship program, planting for food and jobs needs efficient extension services and adequate knowledge of farmers to be successful in it implementation. Rolling out the policies and expecting farmers to use their old skills to achieve new results is likely to produce negative results. Experts should be employed to educate value chain operates on new technologies, and possible ways of controlling pest and diseases.

In the nutshell, government should work with various stakeholders to help put in mechanism that will channel production to the market without any hindrance.

EVANS BRAKO NTIAMOAH is the chief operations officer (COO) of the Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana (CAG). He is currently a doctoral researcher in Agricultural economics and management. He writes, teaches and consults on marketing, management and agribusiness issues. His research interest includes; agribusiness management, agricultural marketing, innovation management, agricultural innovation and organizational performance. You may contact him through E-mail: kwamebrako@yahoo.com

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