The Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, George Oduro, has said the directive to all schools, hospitals and other state institutions to buy foodstuffs from local farmers is not obligatory because Ghana is a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and practises a free market economy.
He, however, said the move is to encourage Ghanaians to buy food produced locally and help prevent post-harvest losses.
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has been directed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministries of Health, Education as well as Gender, Children and Social Protection to purchase food produced locally.
Speaking on the Executive Breakfast Show (EBS) on Class91.3FM on Monday, 22 May, he explained that under the Planting for Food and Jobs programme, government was providing inputs for farmers which will “make the Ghanaian farmer produce [more cheaply] and when it becomes cheaper, the market forces will be determined so importers will divert their attention to these cheap products. So if the food is cheap and [of good] quality, those exporters will rather come to the aid of the Ghanaian farmer and buy the Ghanaian one and supply to their customers. That is why I said it’s not mandatory because we are under WTO so you cannot restrict certain items.”
Mr Oduro further noted that apart from preventing post-harvest losses, the move is also meant to encourage Ghanaians, especially the youth, to take up farming.
He told show host Moro Awudu: “We want our farmers to gain from their products. We have post-harvest losses in Ghana so what we are trying to do is prevent post-harvest losses. So the government is having an MoU with these three Ministries…so that at the end of the day we have off-takers who are going to buy all the produce from the farmers then they will also supply to the ministries…
“We import almost 942,000 metric tonnes of rice into this country, so if we are able to do that and supply the schools and the hospitals, that will reduce that figure drastically. We want to eradicate that problem…however, it should be a gradual process. So that informs the decision of the Ministry to have the MoU with the three ministries.
“We want a ready buyer for the farmer, that is why people are not encouraged to do farming, especially the youth, because at the end of day when you struggle and get some two, three bags at the end of the day, you won’t get somebody to buy, which is very bad, so it won’t encourage the person to do same the following year. So if a farmer has a ready market that will encourage the farmer to do more and encourage others to join, especially the youth. So this is what the whole concept is about.”