REDUCING FOOD IMPORT BILLS:
HOW CAN GHANA LEARN FROM THE JAMAICAN EXAMPLE?
Both Ghana and Jamaica are developing countries that have substantial proportions of their populations relying on agriculture for subsistence. Whilst Ghana is still struggling to cut down on food imports, Jamaica has successfully reduced food imports by substantially increasing output in agriculture. On February 11, 2016, the Jamaican minister of Fisheries and Agriculture reported at the 2016 Hague Agricultural and Livestock Show that his country had succeeded in slashing its food import bill in 2015 by 11.5% over the same period in 2014 (Jamaica Observer, 2016).Ghana’s food import bill over the same period increased marginally over the period. Ghana can learn a lot from the Jamaican story.
In November, 2015, in Ghana, the Association of Rain-fed Lowland Rice Farmers, under the oversight of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, lamented on Ghana’s rising food import bills especially on rice products, and predicted food security challenges with the current trend. If investment in agriculture continues to yield minimal outcomes, Ghana would become exclusively reliant on food import to meet its nutrition needs, and its food security would be dependent on the internal situation of food supplier nations (GARDJA, 2015). With the local Ghanaian currency, the Ghana Cedi, depreciating by up to 90% against major world trading currencies in the last three years, imported food items would continue to be expensive, thereby affecting the livelihoods of citizens. This was corroborated by the Minister of Finance in the 2016 annual budget statement, who reported an increase in food inflation by one percentage point between December 2014 and October 2015 (MOF, 2015).