Sat, 16 Apr 2005 Article

Ghana Pays Price for West’s Price Subsidies—A Rejoinder

By K. Samuel Osei
Ghana Pays Price for Wests Price Subsidies—A Rejoinder

Please allow me to express my views on the above subject matter (Ghanaweb 4/11/05), which has been a concern for a lot of countries for quite sometime. As much as I agree with the original writer on the crux and emotional aspects of the issue. I do disagree with the “blame game” perpetrated by the original writer. After careful analysis of the article, I do not believe the Western farm subsidy program is the source of the rice problem in Ghana. The excerpt below from the writer's original posting provides some answers:

“In Accra's bustling market the effect of US imported rice is easy to see. Huge billboard ads for Chicago Star Rice stare down on hawkers…Bags of imported rice reach to the ceiling of Charles Yeboah's long, narrow shop. He does not stock Ghanaian rice. 'I can't sell it. The quality of the imported rice is so much better… even though it costs more, people buy It.'...The poor quality of Ghanaian rice is no secret. Lack of government subsidies mean the farmers cannot afford to invest in any machinery to help with harvesting the rice. 'We do not have a combine harvester. It is all done by hand' neither does the village have a mill. Sometimes the farmers lay the rice out on the road and let the cars run over the crop to separate the husk from the grain. Or they beat the crop in the fields with heavy sticks. Either way, the crop ends up broken and with stones in it.”

This is a JOKE! Now, my readers, can any one blame the West for our problems? My answer is simply NO! Ghanaians love rice, yes, we do. But, who wants to eat their rice half broken and loaded with stones and rocks?

When the World Bank and other global think tanks complain about agricultural subsidies given to farmers in the West, the concern is primarily on the impact on global competition and the effect on world market prices. When the global market price falls considerably as a direct result of Western farm subsidies, developing countries that do produce rice for export find themselves in a quagmire; they simply cannot compete, and those that do not produce for the global markets actually benefit. In fact, the West is actually doing us a favor by selling us high quality rice at affordable prices!

Doing away with farm subsidies in the West is not going to solve the rice problem in Ghana, what that will do is encourage and sustain competition in the global marketplace, leveling the paying field and keeping the competing “no-subsidy-nations” in business so they can boost their earnings.

Why should any one settle for locally produced low-grade rice loaded with rocks and stones, all because we want to keep the rice farmer in business? The far-reaching solution is for the Ghanaian farmer or government to find better ways to mass-produce high quality rice similar to what is being imported which means employing state-of-the art farming methods, equipment, and machinery to achieve such effort. Without such input to improve both quality and quantity, we'll keep relying on foreign rice, not only from the West, but also Japan, Thailand, etc. Once we upgrade the quality of our rice, we should see a rise in consumption. The message is very clear! By K. Samuel Osei, Auditor/Financial Advisor-Washington, DC, USA