Substitution funding key to cutting tomato import bill
Lately, the conversation in my kitchen revolves around the soaring prices of tomatoes.
Every time the shoppers in my family return from the market, they can’t help but comment on the exorbitant cost of this red fruit, which happens to be an essential ingredient in many of our meals.
Ghana is a country that is heavily dependent on imports to meet its domestic needs.
One of the areas in which this is most apparent is in the agriculture sector, where the country imports a significant amount of its food products.
In particular, Ghana is heavily reliant on imported tomatoes from a Sahelian country, Burkina Faso, to meet the demands of its population.
Data from the Ministry of Trade and Industry pegs the import from Burkina Faso alone at $400 million.
The recent insurgence in the Sahelian country meant that we are in the middle of a tomato famine.
While tomato production in Ghana has the potential to meet local demand, the country’s tomato farmers face a range of challenges that have hampered their ability to produce enough tomatoes to meet domestic needs.
One of the key solutions to this problem is the provision of import substitution funding from the government.
The first step in addressing Ghana’s reliance on imported tomatoes is to understand the factors that have led to this situation.
One of the key factors is the lack of investment in the country’s tomato industry.
Ghana’s tomato farmers lack the resources and support they need to produce enough tomatoes to meet the demands of the country’s population.
In addition, the country’s tomato farmers are facing increasing competition from imports, which are often cheaper than locally produced tomatoes.
Although tomato was part of the vegetables that received attention from the Planting for Food and Jobs (1D1F) policy, it appears the needed impact in the value chain has not been made and felt in the markets and in our pockets.
Given these challenges, import substitution funding from the government could play a critical role in supporting Ghana’s tomato farmers.
Such funding would provide financial support to farmers, enabling them to purchase the equipment, fertilisers, and other inputs they need to produce enough tomatoes to meet domestic demand.
Additionally, such funding could be used to support research and development efforts that would help to improve the quality and yield of locally produced tomatoes.
Benefits of import substitution
Import substitution funding from the government could have a range of benefits for Ghana’s economy and its population.
One of the key benefits is the potential to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
By supporting local tomato farmers, the government could create new employment opportunities in the agriculture sector.
This would not only benefit the farmers themselves but also other businesses that support the sector, such as transport companies and fertiliser suppliers.
Another potential benefit of import substitution funding is the reduction of Ghana’s trade deficit.
The country’s reliance on imported tomatoes is contributing to a significant trade deficit, as Ghana is forced to spend large sums of money importing tomatoes from other countries.
By supporting local tomato farmers, the government could reduce this deficit, saving valuable foreign exchange reserves that could be used to support other areas of the economy.
Furthermore, import substitution funding could also have a positive impact on Ghana’s food security.
The country’s dependence on imported tomatoes has left it vulnerable to external shocks, such as changes in global market prices or disruptions to global supply chains.
By supporting local tomato farmers, the government could help to ensure that the country has a reliable and secure source of tomatoes, reducing the risk of food shortages or price spikes.
While import substitution funding could be an effective solution to Ghana’s reliance on imported tomatoes, there are several challenges that must be addressed to make this a reality.
One of the biggest challenges is ensuring that the funding reaches the farmers who need it most.
This will require effective coordination between the government, financial institutions, and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
Another challenge is ensuring that the funding is used effectively.
The success of the funding will depend on the ability of farmers to use it to increase their productivity and produce high-quality tomatoes that meet domestic demand.
This will require effective training and education programmes that help farmers to improve their farming practices and access new markets.
Finally, there is the challenge of ensuring that the funding is sustainable over the long term.
While import substitution funding can provide a boost to Ghana’s tomato industry, it is not a long-term solution in and of itself.
To achieve sustainable growth, the government will need to implement policies that support the continued development of the sector and encourage private investment in the industry.
Which soup or stew in Ghana doesn’t require tomatoes?
We can’t do without it so we must do all we can to make it cheaper and affordable.
The author is Founder & Chancellor of the Wisconsin International University College and the immediate past President-General of the West Africa Nobles Forum.