The ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Mr Sekou Sangare, has urged West African countries to prioritise the purchase and consumption of locally produced foods to empower local farmers to become economically viable.
He expressed concern over what he described as the excessive importation of foreign foods onto the West African market, a situation he said undermined the capacity of local farmers to mobilise the needed revenue to expand their operations.
“It is important for us to prioritise the purchase and consumption of locally produced foods as it is the surest way we can boost our gains and empower our farmers economically,” he said.
Mr Sangare was addressing journalists at a joint press conference organised by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) and the ECOWAS Commission in Accra last Tuesday.
The press briefing heralded an international conference on the West African Food Security Storage System, which is being held virtually from April 28 to May 10, 2021.
The objective of the conference is to rally African governments and development partners to forge strong partnerships towards the effective implementation of the West African Food Security Storage System — a project which was rolled out in 2015 to ensure food security in the region.
Mr Sangare said the ECOWAS Commission would use the platform to engage policy makers and stakeholders on the need to add value to the various food crops produced in the region to meet demand and create jobs.
He revealed that the commission had secured an amount of €56 million from the European Union to support the implementation of the West African Food Security Storage System.
He said although countries in the sub-region had in their personal capacities rolled out programmes to ensure food security, there was the need for a concerted effort at the regional level to ensure total food security.
For his part, the Chief Director at the MoFA, Mr Robert Patrick Ankobiah, indicated that in spite of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) affecting the activities of farmers in the country last year, the pandemic did not have “any negative impact” on Ghana’s food security.
According to him, the implementation of government’s flagship programme — Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) — contributed to building enough food surpluses which averted food shortages at the height of the pandemic.
“No country is insulated from the effects of COVID-19. There were restrictions and, therefore, people were unable to attend to their farms the way they should and definitely that would have affected production in a way. But in Ghana Agriculture stood out as one of the sectors that was very resilient in terms of production and, therefore, accounted largely to our GDP,” Mr Ankobiah said.
He added that “because of the PFJ programme, we had lots of food surpluses and we have been having that over the past four years and that helped us to be able to build some food stocks such that we did not feel very much the impact of COVID-19.”
Figures released by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) last week indicated that agricultural activity expanded significantly to 8.2 per cent for the last quarter of 2020, up from 4.9 per cent in the third quarter.
According to the GSS, the growth was mainly driven by output increases in crops and cocoa whose growth rose to 10.6 per cent from 5.2 per cent in the previous quarter.