About 820 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are chronically hungry, according to the 2006 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.
The report is contained in a documentary by the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) titled: “The Dilemma of Rice Farmers in Ghana” released in Accra on Wednesday.
The documentary also points out that, farmers, especially rice farmers, suffered from inaccessibility to loans hence the increase in the number of people who are chronically hungry.
Being chronically hungry means that, a person does not have access to food for a long time.
The launch of the documentary is part of a policy and advocacy campaign by GAWU to influence policy formulation and implementation in the agricultural sector, especially to favour rural farmers.
Mrs. Glowen Kyei-Mensah, Project Coordinator, giving an overview of the programme said rice farmers lived in extreme poverty because of the influx of cheap imported agricultural products.
“Ghana's market is now flooded with imported rice even though there are a lot of local rice farmers in the country,” he said, and explained that the practice had resulted in unfair competition pushing local rice farmers out of business.
Mr. Kingsley Offei-Nkansah, General Secretary of GAWU, said small farmers, which included rice farmers, had no employer but they were working people who had rights and there was the need for government to respect their rights.
“The total production of rice in Ghana has not decreased, it has rather increased,” he said, and explained that it was the number of people who consumed rice that had increased and there was the need to help rice farmers to produce the required quantities to feed the nation.
Mr. Offei-Nkansah also said currently there was no practical policy that promoted rice production in Ghana and added that policies regarding importation were driven by powerful people in society who did not consider the plight of the poor farmer.
Mr. Emmanuel Aggrey-Fynn, a consultant with the Food and Agriculture Organization, however, said that government had started to provide support to farmers in the country in response to the recent global increase in food and fuel prices.
Citing the example of Ghana, he said farmers had been granted 50 per cent subsidy on fertilizer and urged government not to make it a temporary measure but spread such initiatives to cover tariffs of imported food.
He also pointed out that it was not always right to liberalize the market and said there was the need for governmental support since it was necessary at times.
Mr Aggrey-Fynn used the example of nine American banks and financial institutions that had been bailed out by government and many European nations taking shares in leading banks because of the global financial crisis.
Liberalizing the market means that government allows individuals to own and operate businesses, which also means that people can import a lot of goods into the country.
Mr Aggrey-Fynn said: “Is this not proof that the hidden hand of the economy, as the economist say, cannot always get things right?”
A participant who is a rice farmer, however, said they were not benefiting from the 50 per cent subsidy on fertilizer.
He explained that government provided some coupons which allowed farmers to buy fertilizer at the subsidized price from the agricultural extension officers in the various regions. However, they did not get the coupons because they were not enough and even when they got them they are told no fertilizers were available, he added.