Last week, SCANDAL carried a banner headline story in which we expressed some fears about Government?s pronouncements on a planned ban on the importation of some food items into the country.

The story followed a declaration made by President John Mahama during a BBC interview and reiterated by his Minister for Trade Industry, Mr. Harruna Iddirrisu at a meeting in Accra with some business leaders.

Now we have information that the Government pushing forward with its intention to ban these imports and so SCANDAL wishes to take yet another opportunity to sound this warning and to say that any hasty decision to carry through with this threat, especially the threat to ban food imports, can spell doom for the country.

Let nobody get us wrong. We will support any plan that emphasizes self reliance and promotes self sufficiency. So by all means let Ghanaians eat what they grow and grow what they eat. Ideally we should import only items we cannot produce locally.

Our concern is that it appears this Government thinks they can just run through the list of Ghana?s imports and then mark out some these imports for banning. No, it does not work like that. First of all we think that announcing this intention itself was wrong and that any intention to ban imports should be kept by the Government and worked at.

It requires a lot of planning. It will take not less than five to ten years for any Government to executive any such an intention even if the ban was for non-essential goods. Remember that the people are already used to a certain life style and to ban these imports will mean altering that life style. If the strategy is not thought through well, we risk driving the market for the banned goods underground and thus reintroduce ?kalabule? into the system.

There will be the need for a thorough research to be carried out to determine what local substitutes exist, they quantities and quality, the consistency with which supply of these substitutes can be maintained but above all, we have to prepare the people, re-orient them and also ensure that there is really a tight lid on the borders.

Let us take rice for example; the total annual consumption of rice in Ghana is estimated at 600,000 metric tons. The country currently produces only 150,000 metric tons of rice. That means imports alone account for 450,000 metric tons of rice. So then if the decision is taken to ban the importation of rice then the government should be prepared to supply these 450,000 metric tons of rice to the market from local production. Not only that, but make sure that quality marches the imported rice and the supply is constant. Are we ready to do that?

Again in the area of poultry products, we are told that Ghana?s annual consumption is estimated 160,000 metric tons. Local production accounts for only 16,000 metric tons. So then 144,000 metric tons of poultry products are imported annually. To ban the importation of poultry will mean that we will have to immediately make available all the 160,000 metric tons of poultry products from the local market or deny the residents from having their regular chicken and that we know the government will not risk doing. Think about all the other products the government has in mind like tin fish, cooking oil, sugar, tomatoes, and even onions,

The question then is how long will it take us to prepare to fill these gaps locally? We submit that it will take the country a minimum of five years of careful planning to acquire the ability to ban the least of these imported food items. That is why we find it funny that Government is going about announcing their intentions to ban food imports and setting up committees to implement the intended ban.

Yes, let us work at reducing our imports through proper planning and the production of local substitutes and avoid these populist pronouncements that can only worsen an already difficult situation.

Source: The Scandal

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