A few weeks ago, news portals and traditional media outlets announced a decision by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to set up the Planting for Food and Jobs Market (PFJ) at its premises.
The news of such an intervention to offer foodstuff at a relatively cheaper price to Civil and Local Government staff has been received with mixed reactions.
Well, the rationale is good, but what about the fate of regular markets? Is the Ministry trying to re-direct traffic from the regular markets to its side? How long does the Ministry intend to continue this move with what it describes as a pilot test of the sale of produce at its premises? Has the Ministry actually analysed the cost incurred to transport these food items?
According to Prof. Lord Mensah, an economics lecturer at the University of Ghana, the Ministry should rather establish centres at strategic points instead of the market at its premises. These points, he said, should serve as a link between the local farmers and the Ministry.
Additionally, he indicated that the move will also enable the Ministry to have first-hand knowledge of the prices of the foodstuff right from the farmers and then communicate that on a mass medium to pre-inform prospective buyers. So, by the time any prospective customer sets out to the market, she/he has an idea of the prices of food items in the market. Again, it will help customers to better haggle over prices. The assertion that market women deliberately profiteer foodstuffs by taking advantage of prevailing conditions has strongly been refuted.
In an engagement with some of the traders at the Central Business District of Accra, they said that they have a chain of workforce who stand in the gap of getting their foodstuff on the market. What actually informs the pricing of such items? For instance, with plantain, right from the farm, the services of tricycle (aboboyaa) riders are engaged to transport the produce to a truck for GH¢150.00.
The truck drivers charge a cost of GH¢1,000.00 as compensation for driving empty to cart the foodstuff. After the truck gets to the market, labourers are hired to offload the plantain from the truck for head porters or aboboyaa riders at variant destinations. Will they render free service? Obviously, no. The traders have appealed to the government to intervene in reducing the high cost of fuel prices.
On his part, a Ranking Member on Food and Agriculture Committee in Parliament, Eric Opoku, said “if you [government] want to subsidize agricultural produce, then you [government] have to cut down the high cost of production.”
I am of the view that the government in its quest to re-set the economy on healthy pedals, should take into account, how it can reduce the fuel cost significantly. This will go a long way to make foodstuff more affordable to purchase on our regular markets, so the Agric Ministry can discontinue its nine-day wonder move of intervention.