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15.04.2008 General News

Food price hikes hit the world; but Ghana doing better, says analyst

By The Statesman
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Empty shelves in Zimbabwe; food riots in West Bengal, Haiti, la Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Mexico; warnings of hunger in Jamaica, Nepal, the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa, generally.

The Committee for Joint Action has taken note that sky-rocketing prices for basic foods are triggering political instability, forcing governments to step in to artificially control the cost of bread, maize, rice and dairy products.

But, in an interview with the Trunk News Agency, Ouborr Kutando, a Public Policy analyst of the Danquah Institute believes Ghana's economy has "performed exceptionally well” to withstand the massive hikes in food prices that have gripped the rest of the developing world.

Food inflation in Ghana were felt more in the months of January, February, April, and 2007. The increases averaged 1.48% and 1.92% respectively in the first and second quarters respectively compared to the increases of 1.21% and 1.44 % for the same periods in 2006.

That not withstanding, a comparison of food prices within the sub- region shows Ghana as having lower retail prices compared to most of its neighbors. Among the food items compared,

Mr Kutando said, for example, “Plantain costs $0.40 in Ghana, better than our neighbours in the West African region. In Nigeria, for instance, it costs $0.74 and in Togo, it costs $1.68. On top of that, teachers and nurses are paid better in Ghana than in those countries.”

The policy analyst at the Cantonments-based think tank added, "Even though the price of rice has shot up by 70% on the commodities market in the last year, imported rice costs $1.00 in Ghana, $1.16 in Nigeria, $1.02 in Togo and $0.84 in la Cote d'Ivoire."

He continued, "Yam costs $0.32 in Ghana but costs $0.74 in Nigeria, $0.96 in Togo and $0.18 in Benin. Also, chilies cost $1.49 in Ghana but $1.80 in Benin, and $1.71 in Nigeria. Oranges cost $0.12 in Ghana, $0.85 and $0.48 in Nigeria and Togo respectively. Prices may still be high here but we are doing far better than the developing world average."

Mr Kutando stressed that UN Food and Agricultural Organisation figures indicate that record world prices for most staple foods have led to 18% food price inflation in China, 13% in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10% or more in Latin America, Russia and India, according to the.

"The price of wheat has doubled in price, maize is nearly 50% higher than a year ago, while other staples such as corn, maize and soya are trading at well above their 1990s averages. I think the facts support the reality that the Ghanaian economy has become a lot more resilient in recent years," he said.

The policy analyst attributed the global food price hikes to several factors, including, "rising energy costs which has increased transport and storage costs. The spike in oil prices, which hit $103 per barrel in recent days, has pushed up fertilizer prices, as well as the cost of trucking food from farms to local markets and shipping it abroad."

The rise in food prices is also partly because of other uncontrollable and controllable forces such as spiraling population growth across the globe combined with a lack of growth in the agricultural sector.

"The world is growing at the phenomenal rate of at least 200,000 people a day, or 75 million a year. Unless the rate is checked, this planet's 3.9 billion inhabitants will double in number within 35 years. India's 1.6% annual growth rate will double the country's current population of 1.1million by the year 2030," he quoted from available figures.

He commended Ghana on taking the lead in dealing with some of the environmental pressures encompassing climate change. But called for "a lot more consciousness here."

Mr Kutando added, "Considering that Ghana's yam harvests have been seriously disrupted by flooding, we have done exceptionally well because other countries in West Africa that faced similar floods are not doing as well."

He identified "the main losers" as "poor people who live in cities in developing countries, who are facing higher prices for imported food on low incomes."

Though the World Bank says that the high price of food could lead to developing countries missing international poverty targets, Mr Kuntando is confident that Ghana would meet her targets.

"Let us also not forget that some poor farmers are also benefiting from higher prices," he added.

By slarge

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