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15.04.2008 General News

The world food crisis:What are we eating or should we be eating?

By Accra Mail
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Credible reports from credible sources like the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the UN speak of rising food prices which could go up by as much as 50% in the current fiscal year.

Henri Josserand, of the Global Information and Early Warning System of FAO last week said, “Food price inflation hits the poorest hardest, as the share of food in their total expenditures is much higher than that of the wealthier nations.” (See ADM of yesterday).

What this means is that we must brace up for tough times ahead. However, our Minister of Food and Agriculture also assured us last week that adequate preparations have been made by our government to face any food challenges ahead. That indeed, is very reassuring, but all the same, we must take the FAO warning very seriously. It is conceivable that 90% or more of the rice we consume is not produced by us. As for wheat and wheat-based products a good 100% comes from abroad. Though we produce maize, we still rely on some imports to make up for the shortfalls.

These three cereals have now colonised the world and that's where we believe the problem lies. Many indigenous foods, nutritious and abundant, which local communities depended on, have been marginalised by the overdependence on these three cereals.

As their prices soar, because the world has discovered other uses for them, the solution would lie in going back to the basics. Governments, especially of the poorer countries of the world, must evolve new strategies to encourage their people to consume more of their indigenous foods. There are varieties of cassava for example, which are just as palatable as yam and certainly more palatable than potatoes, but they have gone out of fashion and the starch producing variety is rather being encouraged – for industrial uses.

Eating cassava as a staple has now out completely in many homes. Sweet potatoes are considered among the most nutritious of tubers, so are cocoyams etc but hardly do they feature as staples in many homes. Millet and guinea corn used to be the main cereal staples in the northern regions, now they have been swamped by rice and maize and wheat-based products. We can reverse the rising cost of food if we want to!

Those who determine the prices and uses of rice, maize and wheat and may have never heard of nkontomire or bankyi are not indigenous people. They are to be found in the food and mercantile exchanges of the richer nations....Let's eat local and we will escape the clutches of their greed!

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