When Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) in 2011 announced a planned ban on the importation of poultry into Ghana by 2013, Food Security Ghana (FSG) thought that it was a good April Fools’ Day joke! Realising that the month was in fact August, a good joke turned into a real tragedy.
MOFA subsequently, realising the senselessness and indeed irresponsibility of the official’s statement, retracted said statement and from the mouth of the Ghanaian Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr Alfred Sugri Tia, committed the Government of Ghana (GoG) to using “all legitimate means to discourage the importation of frozen meat into the country.”
The poultry debate in Ghana, and indeed in many other African countries, is not new and has been going on forever!
Highlights of the June 2013 USDA Foreign Agricultural Service report titled “Ghana Poultry Report Annual” sums up the poultry situation in Ghana as follows:
“Post forecasts poultry imports for Ghana to increase by 5 percent to stand at 165,000 MT in MY 2013, up from 157,000 MT in MY 2012. Ghana poultry imports have more than quadrupled since 2002.
Ghana's domestic poultry sector has been on the decline, supplying only about 10 percent of total poultry demand in the country. In the last five years US poultry exports to Ghana have increased to reach between 24-31 percent of the market demand. Competition from Brazil and European Union (EU) origins has also been increasing.
Currently U.S. poultry enjoys a price advantage compared to the others, especially over products with EU origins. For example the current cost of U.S. poultry per 10kg box is $22, while the same sized box of Brazilian and EU is $34 and $32 respectively. Ghana continues to be a destination for U.S. poultry due to this price advantage, strong relationships between importers, and exporters, and loyalty to U.S. poultry products.”
The plight of the poultry industry in Ghana comes to the fore with regular cries for help from the industry, followed by regular promises from the GoG and answered with regular accusations of insufficient government support.
The bare facts are that imported frozen poultry from the USA, Brazil and Europe are approximately 30% to 40% cheaper than locally produced poultry. This price difference is the result of two main factors namely (1) subsidies on exports by especially the USA and European Union (EU), and (2) the inefficiencies of the Ghanaian poultry industry combined with very high input (e.g. feed) costs.
The Ghana poultry industry is screaming for protectionist policies in the form of higher import tariffs combined with subsidies on imported feedstock, mostly maize.
There are even some protagonists who truly believe that a total ban on imports is the way to go and that Nigeria should serve as the role model. Little do they realise that such a step could cause an ounce of chicken meat to become more expensive than an ounce of gold, given the current dependency gap of 90%.
In the meantime MOFA has come up with yet another promise and solution to revive the poultry industry. According to Dr Hannah Bissiw, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, the Ministry has cut down on poultry import to save the local industry from collapsing and has embarked on a pilot Poultry Broiler Project (PBP) throughout the 10 regions to identify farmers who could feed the market.
According to Dr. Bissiw the PBP project is “President John Mahama’s vision to revamp the poultry industry, that all stakeholders in agriculture were involved and that 100 poultry farmers would be selected to start the pilot programme.”
Free market advocates, on the other hand, argue that market forces should dictate the direction of the Ghana poultry industry. Under free market conditions those who cannot compete effectively are forced out by those who can. Such a scenario, of course, will lead to the total demise of the poultry industry in Ghana.
The fact is also that protectionist policies such as increased duties will be financed by hard-pressed and shell-shocked consumers - those Ghanaians who are so easily forgotten when it comes to decisions on “food security” by the GoG and or MOFA.
FSG has for a long time argued that the understanding of what “food security” is really about is not understood by either the GoG and even less so by MOFA. Arguments about food security invariably turn to self-sufficiency that, in the dictionary of MOFA, is the same as food security.
Food security is about “preferred, available, affordable and nutritious food for all” - not just about production and self-sufficiency.
The solution to the woes of the Ghanaian poultry industry is not a simple or single minded solution. However, the mountain to climb looks insurmountable given a 90% import dependency, an inefficient industry and competition that offers poultry at prices that are up to 40% cheaper than what Ghanaian producers can offer.
Ghana is not the only country facing this situation and FSG will look at problems and solutions of other countries in Africa in a follow-up article.
In the meantime it is time for stakeholders in the Ghana poultry industry, under the leadership of the GoG to become extremely creative in the search of breakthrough solutions to a dire situate! "Yesterday-thinking" and "business-as-usual", something that seems to be the order of the day, is just not good enough!
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