THE GOVERNMENT of India has offered to give Ghana 15,000 metric tonnes of rice free of charge. This followed the recent global food crisis and as part of the Indian government's support to Ghana, with whom it had a long-standing relationship.
The world had been lately hit by rising food and fuel prices which led to the shortage of especially basic staples such as wheat, rice and corn.
Throughout Africa, rising commodity prices pushed many nations to the brink of famine while India managed to stockpile as much as 40 million tonnes of grains as of year-end 1995.
Although it was almost impossible to pinpoint the exact cause of soaring food prices, experts had placed the blame on rising fuel costs, lower agricultural production, weather shocks, more meat consumption, and shifts to bio-fuel crops.
According to the World Bank, an estimated 100 million people had fallen into poverty in the last 2 years as a result of the soaring prices.
President John Agyekum Kufuor who disclosed the promise of the Indian government at the commissioning of the Golden Jubilee House, an India-Ghana funded project, which would serve as office complex and residency for the presidency, described the Indians as Ghana's true friends.
Although the President did not give details, he mentioned that the kind gesture came after a chat with the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
He was however glad that Ghana did not experience the food shortage that hit many countries world wide and said, “We did not suffer the food shortage but we have a shipload of rice on the high seas coming to Ghana.”
In May 2008 President Kufuor announced a five-pronged intervention to arrest the escalating global prices of essential commodities.
The measures included the removal of import duties on rice, wheat, yellow corn and vegetable oil, worth billions of dollars.
He therefore directed importers to reduce prices accordingly to reflect the new arrangement and declared re-exporting of commodities from Ghana to its neighbouring countries as a criminal offence to ensure that miscreants did not abuse the relaxed tax regime by re-exporting commodities.
“Indeed, it should be a criminal offence to attempt to re-export these items which are being declared tax-exempt purposely for the benefit of the local market,” the President warned.
Presenting the measures in a nationwide address, he said that government was already in consultation with its development partners to import and stockpile additional supplies of rice and wheat to enhance food security and it was not surprising that India was now shipping this free rice to Ghana.
The other measures to make life easy for Ghanaians during these trying times included the removal of excise duty and debt recovery levy on premix oil, gas oil, kerosene and marine gas.
Towards augmenting the food crop stock in the country and ensuring good harvest, he stated that government would subsidize the cost of fertilizer, worth over $7million and work to make for effective distribution of the agricultural inputs.
To ensure further food security in the country, President Kufuor disclosed that government was stepping up attention and investments in the agricultural sector.
“In this regard, it is directing the management of the Afforestation Programme to increase the planting of foodstuffs in the TUONJA demarcated areas around the country.”
The country's economy had showed robustness and resilience in the face of the external shocks, he noted, paying tribute to the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Ghana for what he described as their able, disciplined and far-sighted management of the economy over the past seven years.
By Emelia Ennin Abbey