IN 2006 when the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) initiated efforts to acquire the bulk of its food requirements from Ghana, it was then just a policy shift which came with no heralding.
Two years after the implementation, Ghana has benefited in the shoring up of the capacity of its farmers, agro processors and packaging industries.
The policy shift has been a model of a successful development effort which has tackled some challenges associated with underdevelopment, that is, the lack of value addition, viable markets and basic information and knowledge acquisition.
Ms Trudy Bower-Pirinis, who initiated the policy change when she took office as the WFP Country Representative in 2003, told the Daily Graphic that “Ghana has a lot of potential to become a procurement and logistics hub in the sub-region”.
From initial grain acquisitions worth $200,000 in 2003, the WFP purchased about $1.7 million worth of commodities in 2007.
The goal of buying 60 per cent of food commodities needed for the 2006-2010 WFP Country Programme in Ghana for a total value of $10 million is on track.
Food items procured are maize, soya blend, vegetable oil, iodised salt and sugar and they are used in rapid response to humanitarian needs and other development programmes such as the WFP’s supplementary feeding, health and nutrition education, take home rations for girls and support to the Ghana School Feeding Programme in basic schools.
The acquisition from local sources has led to the WFP building the capacity of farmers in good practices in harvesting and post-harvest care.
Agro processors have also had training in best practices to meet international standards for food requirements for food items such as corn soya blend, while the skills of others have been improved for standard packaging.
With other partners such as CIDA, the President’s Special Initiatives (PSIs), and the Micronutrient Initiative, small and medium-size salt producers in the country have been supported with iodisation equipment and business management skills.
This paid off with about US$40,000 worth of purchases by WFP/Ghana last year in iodised salt and the first successful tender for iodised salt from Ghana for WFP/Burkina Faso.
In July 2006, the WFP launched its first tender for locally produced fortified corn soya blend after building the capacity of farmers and manufacturers on its specifications and that led to the purchase of a 1,000 metric tonnes of the blend, worth $460,000.
Procurement and other figures at the WFP show that many of these producers are now capable of supplying national food assistance programmes, with tendering for WFP regional operations as a next step.
However, these gains must be maintained in the face of global market challenges of rising fuel and commodity prices.
The successes underlie challenges, untapped opportunities and the need for initiatives to sustain these programmes by the local and central governmental authorities at the expiration of some of the safety-net development programmes of the WFP.
Much more education and training for farmers in proper storage and quality control to keep grains free of spoilage in order to meet international standards is needed.
Suppliers, agro processors and other participants in agricultural markets need a sense of supply deadlines and packaging requirements that meet international standards.
The commitment of local and central authorities is, above all, required to sustain these programmes and make them fulfil what they were instituted for.
In the words of Ms Bower-Pirinis, “The success story of Ghana in meeting the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty is in the making. The challenge is how to redistribute production surpluses and ensure high quality grains. Ghana is moving from dependence on external food sources to its local sources.”
DAILY GRAPHIC, MONDAY MARCH 31, 2008