Tue, 10 Feb 2009 Feature Article

Is Ghana Citrus Farming Being Ruined by the Non-Visionary Short-sighted Politicians?

Is Ghana Citrus Farming Being Ruined by the Non-Visionary Short-sighted Politicians?

"A soldier walks on his stomach", so the popular adage goes. Similarly, "a hungry man is an angry man". The computation of these two noble sayings goes to conclude that farming is the strength of almost every nation on the earth regardless of their status quo, of either being a developed, or, a developing nation. It is however harrowing to notice the lack of interest in farming by the Ghanaian youth with the covert disrespect for farmers by the Ghanaian politicians. The Ghanaian politicians who cannot see beyond the tip of their bloody nose are outwardly paying lip service in praise of the farmers while deep within their wildly palpitating hearts, they treat them with disdain.

The backbone of the African economy in general, and that of Ghana in particular, is agriculture. Cocoa is practically the basis of Ghana's economy accounting for anything between 30-40 per cent of the nation's GDP. But do we appreciate the efforts and contributions of these poor and mostly unschooled farmers living in mud or thatched houses in the remote parts of the country? To the best of my knowledge, the answer is a sad NO. Many a time have I heard and read contemptuous remarks made about especially the Ashantis, most of whom are not only cocoa but also subsistence farmers. The nation's breadwinners are the farmers whose selfless contributions are negligibly appreciated by the dimwits who in turn treat them as "ahaban asefo3". It is a well noted saying that, "don't bite the finger that feeds you", but this is not the case in Ghana. How often than not have those equally disadvantaged but happily working on the sea not looked down upon those working on the farms? Is it not the very money accruing to the nation from our cocoa exports that earned the so-called learned ones the Secondary and tertiary education scholarships, bursaries and other incentives that have made them what they are today? Why then should they turn back once on top of the ladder to look at those underneath with that much disrespect?

The politicians and those entrusted with the administration of the nation and public institutions cannot escape my whipping stick of accusation and guilt. They knowingly or unknowingly by their dismal policies and style of administration always seek the satisfaction of their selfish interests first. However they try, as stupidly as it has always been, the insatiability of the quest becomes gargantuan at each such attempt. One would notice that when it occurred to the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board to build clinics to cater for the cocoa farmers in Ghana, the first of its kind, "Cocoa Clinic", was built in Accra. What rubbish? Do cocoa farmers live in Accra? No. The then management of the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) by this dastardly act sought the satisfaction of their interest first. Cocoa farmers live in slums in the hinterland. Though the clinic is known to cater for the medical needs of the larger public in Accra, one would sensibly expect the first of such clinics to go to the district where the farmers are most concentrated, to enable them reap the first benefit or fruits of their sweat and toil. It should never be the other way round as it has also been in Ghana.

What is the essence of a "Farmers' Day" culminating in a "Farmer's Public Holiday" to the numerous subsistence farmers in Ghana? Was the idea for the accordance of such a holiday a well thought out one? What motivated the proponent of such idea to ensure it ends up with the granting of a public holiday? What is soap to a hungry dog? Nothing! Holidays are granted to compensate the efforts made, celebrate an achievement, or remember an important occasion in the life of a people or a nation. How do you sensibly reward the efforts of our struggling farmers by, or, through the granting of a public holiday? You cannot. I am speaking from the point of view of a farmer. The farmer's holiday only benefits the white and blue collar workers who are in the employ of the government and other private companies but not the self-employed farmers themselves. What income does the poor subsistence farmer draw, and from whom, when he or she stays away from the farm for the fact that the day is classified a public holiday? We must wise up a bit and stop daydreaming. We need to extricate ourselves from the cocooning primitivism in which we are incarcerated as orchestrated by the actions of our politicians and the cowardly inactions of the governed.

The Ghanaian farmer will rather appreciate a subsidy on their farming equipment and the facilitation to the market for their produce than assisting in non beneficial public holiday though farcically designated for their comfort. In the absence of capital intensive or mechanised farming in Ghana, our old stumped subsistence farmers are able to produce almost enough to feed the nation. However, their aspiration to better their lives through farming always hits the rocks. In a year of abundant produce resulting from favourable weather conditions, the Ghanaian food stuff farmer runs a heavy financial loss let alone breaking even or making any profit. This is the sad predicament of us farmers. We cannot find buyers who will even be ready to offer a purchasing price far below the production cost. The produce goes rotten without any form of compensation from any quarters to the farmers. Hopefully, nobody is going to lecture me on the basic principles of economics regarding demand and supply as determinants of market price for commodities. Any such stupid attempt will incur my unforgiving wrath come to bear heavily upon whoever comes up with any crap to complicate through augmentation of the suffering of the farmers.

How on earth do we encourage importation of food while our farmers cannot find market for their locally produced food within the country? Are we not being complete bastards without an iota of sense in our brainless skulls? When our farmers could not find market for their locally produced vitamin-rich rice, the government was still allowing the importation of rice and on top, rotten rice into the country. When our farmers in the Northern part of Ghana could not find market for their groundnuts/peanuts, were unpatriotically greedy Ghanaians not importing "Nkate burger" into the country? Don't we by our selfish short-sighted policies discouraging ourselves from ever becoming self-sufficient in food production? Do we understand the repercussions of our lack of interest in ensuring we are able to produce and store up enough food to feed the nation? In great times of crisis, Ghana and Africa will collapse like an avalanche, and the fall will be such thunderous as to echo through the entire world.

The citrus farmers have of recent years become victims of the myopic policies of the Ghanaian politicians and administrators. The only vibrant external market for the oranges was Burkina Faso. However, for strange reasons, the Burkinabes have been banned by our home administrators from coming to Ghana to purchase the oranges. Since then, the Ghana market is so saturated with oranges that nobody buys them any longer. One cannot even get people interested enough to go to the farms to help themselves. We need to pay workers to pluck them off the trees, gather them, and dump them at the edges of the farm to rot. For how long can we cope with this insanity and callousness of our brain short-circuited politicians who all that they know is embezzlement of public funds and pure greed? We the citrus farmers demand answers now. For nearly the GHC 9,000 annual expenditure on ones' farm paying the workers wages and buying insecticides and herbicides if in the end there is not a pesewa in return, the person is sure to go ballistic. How should people endeavouring to help Ghana improve upon its agricultural needs and foreign earnings be made to suffer such financial losses on end?

I am ready to be on the war path to liberate my suffering people from the shackles of political incorrectness. All citrus and other farm produce farmers who are not happy about their conditions of living made worse by the government policies should not hesitate to e-mail me about their concerns. Rocky the fighter, will take it on with the powers that be.

I suggest whatever the problem that culminated in the banning of the Burkinabes from coming into Ghana to trade in oranges is re-examined. There could be an effective way around dealing with the problem other than a total ban where the farmers are made to suffer such financial losses without any sort of compensation from the government. Some farmers have either abandoned their farms or started chopping down their citrus crops. Some citrus workers and their dependents will have their livelihood cut off once they get sacked and removed from the farms.

A certain Whiteman, who has heard the plight of the citrus farmers with the attendant wastage, has contacted a Ghanaian friend about setting up a fruit-based factory in Ghana to make use of the oranges. However, he is scared if our unpredictable politicians will not sabotage his efforts in the near future by resorting to their usual nefarious activities. What assurances have you as politicians to give to this man? The citrus farmers need such a factory built in the country to guarantee them an assurance that their efforts will not be in vain. The Ghanaian farmers need subsidies. They need compensation. They desire silos built for the storage of their cereals. We need our good-for-nothing scientists to buck up; then come up with practical solutions to our food insecurity rather than stupidly basking in the pride of theoretical paper qualifications which to Rocky, are meaningless; not worth thhe paper materials they are written on.

Ghanaian farmers are advised to rally together to fight for their rights. I am with you always. Until the needed change is effected, the saboteurs will know no peace. Stay tuned for more scintillating updates on this issue and other topics of interest.

Rockson Adofo, London

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