The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is calling on government to do more to deal with food insecurity in the country.
The council is worried about what it says is the unusually high level of food insecurity in the northern part of the country, and wants government and other stakeholders to take immediate steps to deal with the situation.
“Food security is about all people at all times having sufficient food for their dietary needs. And clearly, all people do not at all times in Ghana have sufficient foods for their dietary needs. So we are not food secure,” Director of the Crop Research Institute of the CSIR Dr Stella Ama Enning told Joy News’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo in an interview at a food security forum organised by the CSIR in Accra.
Director-General of the CSIR Dr Victor Agyemang explained up to one million people in Ghana remain food insecure, at a time when Ghana is a middle-income country, which is not good enough.
“According to the statistics, five percent of the population is food insecure. But then the unfortunate thing is that 60 percent of those who are food insecure are in the three northern regions.
So it becomes significant. If you have a population where almost one million people are food insecure, no matter the percentage, it is still a major concern that government has to look at,” he explained.
Dr Agyemang also expressed concern about Ghana’s huge food import bill, particularly in relation to foods like rice and maize which can be produced in Ghana abundantly.
He questioned why government has not put in place effective policies over the years to deal with the country’s food production deficit.
“We are questioning the rationale of government importing these foods when the country can produce them. What we should try to do is bridge the deficit. But if you don’t have a programme which gradually reduces your deficit and you continue to import, then you have a challenge,” he told Joy News.
Dr Agyemang also expressed concern about the high level of post-harvest losses of major crops across the country.
Giving the statistical breakdown, he said: “On average, the country loses $400 million to post harvest losses alone. For cassava, 18 percent of what is produced is lost. Maize is 18 percent, 27 percent of rice is lost.”
He added: “And you will find out that the post-harvest loss is almost 70 percent of the imports. So if we are able to handle the post-harvest losses, we may not even need to import a lot of the crops we are importing.”
Director of the Animal Research Institute of the CSIR, Dr E. K. Adu noted the country spends about $200 million annually importing meat and meat products.
He explained poultry imports alone constitute about 80% of total meat imports.
Dr Adu was particularly worried about the increasing trend of imports over the years, noting “total meat imports rose from 97,719 metric tonnes in 2012 to 183,949 metric tonnes in 2013, representing an increase of 188 percent.”
Domestic meat production constitutes only about 30 percent of annual total consumption, excluding bush meat.
Dr Adu pointed out this has foreign exchange implications for the country, is detrimental to local livestock and poultry industry, and could affect Ghana’s ability to attain the Sustainable Development Goals.
He called for more investments in innovative food science and emerging technologies to stop the trend.
The CSIR has the mandate to undertake science and technological research to help accelerate national development.
Eight of the 13 institutes are into agricultural research.
The forum in Accra was to afford the various institutes the opportunity to analyse Ghana’s food security trends and recommend the way forward.
Dr Stella Enning of the Crop Research Institute called for more investments in agricultural research and extension.
She demanded an end to reliance on donor support for research and encouraged government to pump more cash into the work of research institutions.
She also called for a speedy passage of the plant Breeders Bill into law to encourage more research.
Deputy Chief of Staff at the Presidency, Jonny Osei Kofi who was at the forum assured the scientists their concerns will be passed on to government for redress.