Thursday, 8 December 2011

EATING LOCALLY PRODUCED RICE HELPS ALLEVIATE POVERTY IN RURAL GHANA!

I couldn't help laughing, when I read an article in the 8th December 2011 general news web-page, of www.ghanaweb.com, entitled: "Food Minister Bites the Dust".

It wasn't quiet clear who wrote it, but it was apparently 'sourced' from a "Sacut Denis". As the humorous old cynic who brought the article to my attention said to me: "Kofi, only heaven knows just how much the rice-importation-lobby forked out for this self-serving piece."

The reason for the mirth, was that the wealthy and powerful rice-importation-lobby (on whose behalf the article was obviously penned!) seemed to think, for some extraordinary reason, that somehow, they could start counting the days to the point when the minister for food and agriculture, the Hon. Kwesi Awhoi, would finally announce his resignation. Some hope.

The fact that climate change is impacting food production in Ghana negatively, obviously having escaped that genius of a 'publicist' for the rice-importation-lobby, Sucat Dennis, I wondered if it had ever occurred to him, and others of his ilk, that the importation of rice is one of the economic activities, through which a great deal of wealth leaves the shores of Ghana, for foreign parts.

In railing against rice importation, the minister of food and agriculture, Mr. Kwesi Awhoi, shows that he clearly understands the nexus between poverty alleviation, and halting the importation of rice - something that only increases the net worth of the mostly crooked and wealthy tax-dodgers, which that particular line of business seems to attract (and in droves!).

Until Ghana becomes self-sufficient in rice production, it is important that every government of the day, at any given point in time, in our history, going forward, makes ordinary people understand clearly that local rice production, helps alleviate rural poverty - and also increases Ghana's GDP substantially.

Eating locally produced rice, must be seen by all, as a means of helping to end poverty in the rice growing areas of our country. And rice, indeed, does well in many parts of our country, luckily.

So, instead of belittling the efforts of the minister of food and agriculture, Mr. Kwesi Awhoi - by mocking him - Sucat Dennis, whoever he really is, and people of his ilk, must rather congratulate him, for being far-sighted in taking positive steps to encourage local rice production in Ghana - which helps alleviate rural poverty: particularly in the three northern regions.

Kwesi Awhoi deserves the Grand Medal, for his high-minded dedication to encouraging local rice production, in Ghana. He is to be congratulated for having the guts to actively discourage the importation of rice - something that, alas, only enables the net worth of a powerful and well-connected wealthy few - most of whom dodge taxes and corrupt customs officials routinely - to rise to stratospheric heights.

It is time discerning and independent-minded Ghanaians, started seeing eating local rice, as a contribution to poverty alleviation in rural Ghana, and the economic empowerment of smallholder farmers countrywide - as well as an act of patriotism by nationalistic individuals. Period. A word to the wise...

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POST SCRIPT:

I am reproducing the said www.ghanaweb.com piece, said to be "sourced" from Sucat Dennis. Please read on:

"Food Minister Bites the Dust

In an interesting development Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, the Minister of Food and Agriculture in Ghana, was made to bite the dust when he was defeated by Mrs. Queenster Pokuah Sawyer, a real estate developer in the ruling party’s parliamentary primary for the Agona East Constituency.

Although the press reported it as “a shocking moment for both media personnel, party stalwarts and political observers”, I am not surprised by the latest development.

Promises to resign Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi’s defeat must be seen in the light of his family association as well as the promises he has made and changed time and again, and his total disregard to the plight of Ghanaian consumers.

On 23 September 2009the Ahwoi brother in charge of food and agriculture in Ghana publicly vowed to resign within two years “if he fails to deliver on his set goals and targets in the next two years”.

In the first place that deadline has expired, he has not achieved “his set goals and targets” yet no offer to resign has come forward.

In the second place, as representative of the people of Ghana steering such an important sector as food and agriculture - and thus food security - has nothing to do with “his set goals and targets”, but rather about what is required in the best interest of the people of Ghana.

In 2009 his promise was to make Ghana self-sufficient in terms of rice production within two years. The fact is that the self-sufficiency figure might even have decreased further.

In 2009 the Ahwoi brother also promised to engage in fraudulent activities to achieve “his set goals and targets” by stating, “I will bag ‘Made in Ghana Rice’ with ‘Imported from Thailand’ embossed on them for Ghanaians to procure if that is what they want”.

This year Kwesi Ahwoi made yet another promise having realised that he is at risk for being taken up on his 2009 promise. On 26 October 2011 “Minister of agriculture, Kwesi Ahwoi, says he would resign in a year, if he is unable to halve rice importation into the country.”, as reported by TV3.

Anybody and everybody who know what they are talking about in this area know that he will not be able to deliver on his promise, and the question is why he does not do the honourable thing and resign now.

Obsession with rice The “rice wars” in Ghana since Kwesi Ahwoi was appointed as Minister of Food and Agriculture has shown one thing, and one thing only - an obsession by him to destroy rice importers.

In 2010 industry analysts and consumers alike criticised the NDC government for reintroducing a 20 percent import tariff on certain basic foodstuff such as cooking oil and rice. This created a huge tariff differential between Ghana (37%) and the Ivory Coast (12.5%) and led to massive smuggling on Ghana’s Western borders, huge losses in revenue collection by the state and undue hardship for 70 percent of Ghana’s rice consumers.

Kwesi Ahwoi at that stage bluntly said that if rice importers does not accept the situation, they can pack up and leave. At a time when Ghana was only able to produce 30 percent of local demand, such a statement was tantamount to threatening security in Ghana.

Although I have not come to grips with the Minister’s obsession with self-sufficiency of rice production, some anonymous sources claims that there are personal differences between him and some of the rice importing companies.

Even though everybody agrees that a medium to long-term strategy to move towards self-sufficiency is important, all agrees that the short term refusal by the government in general and Mr. Ahwoi specifically to assist Ghanaian consumers to reduce the cost of living is beyond their understanding.

Grabbing at straws In a recent (September 2011) feature published in Ghanaian media Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. made the following statement:

Then there is, of course, Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi, described largely as self-effacing and personable. As Minister of Agriculture under the Mills-Mahama government, Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi once confided to a friend of mine, who is also a good friend of our “Dining-Hall Prefect”, about a year, or so, ago that he was literally grabbing at straws at his new post, and that he could do with just about any kind of managerial assistance that he could get.

I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of this statement in the light of more and more revelations that the performance by MOFA under Kwesi Ahwoi’s leadership is more than questionable.

The food policies adopted by the NDC government, FASDP I (2003) and II (2007), dates back to the times of the NPP, and little or no added value has been provided by MOFA since then.

What has become apparent - as has in fact been acknowledged by the Minister - is that the government has not been able to implement the food and agricultural policies.

Almost every aspect of the policies from promises of mechanisation, fertilisers, credit, youth employment, irrigation systems and you name it has been plagued with problem upon problem.

The fact that the Honourable Minister has suffered a blowing defeat by his own party members is indeed telling. Is this a sign that Ghanaians who are suffering and struggling through a food crisis that is worse than 2007 / 08 with little empathy from the government is starting to say, “Enough is enough!”?


Source: sacut denis"

End of article culled from www.ghanaweb.com
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