The pig industry – its contribution to food security and the economy
The pig industry of Ghana was surprised by a decision of government to import pork and pork products into Ghana. This was based on a statement dated January 18, 2023 by the United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service, titled ‘Ghana officially opens its market to US pork and products export’.
The statement was shocking and unfortunate as it comes in the wake of a national economic crisis that experts have attributed in part to Ghana’s reliance on foreign goods. It is also in disregard of the ingenuity and tenacity of private individuals and businesses who have grown the pig industry to its current level. Sadly, the statement is in sharp contrast to government’s rhetoric of encouraging the youth to venture into the agricultural sector which government believes is the backbone of the economy.
Government has feebly denied the statement through a rejoinder by Veterinary Services of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture dated February 8, 2023. Government’s response came after some stakeholders and civil society groups threatened it with legal action regarding more information on the initial statement.
The lack of clarity on the matter is a cause of concern for many participants within the pig industry, and an authoritative statement will be required by the Ministry of Agriculture to allay the fears of businesses and individuals participating in the industry.
This article aims at outlining benefits of the pig industry to the Ghanaian economy, challenges of the industry and the way forward in a bid to appeal that government commits to facilitating growth of the industry. This is also to ask that government withdraws proposals or intentions (if any) to import pig meat and pig products into Ghana.
Overview of the pig industry in Ghana
The pig industry in Ghana is doing quite well and has progressed steadily over the years from 2018. In the last ten years, Ghana’s market for pork has been rising at an impressive rate which is well above that of other livestock products. Factors contributing to the increasing growth include increase in consumer taste for pork and pork products, dietary concerns which favour substitution of red meat with white meat, and industry efforts in creating added value in response to consumer demand for innovative products. The Ghanaian consumer now prefers high-quality value-added pig products; a step up from how pork is usually sold – fresh, unprocessed and frozen.
From the perspective of farmers, pig production is highly prolific and the meat from a pig weighing about 75 – 90 kg is produced in a comparatively short period of six to seven months, compared to other small ruminants. Also pig rearing and pork production has recently attracted growing interest of Ghanaian farmers, who seek diversification of enterprises following a period of low profitability. Ghana’s market for pork is therefore rising at an impressive rate well above that of other livestock products.
According to Majekodunmi et al, 2019, pig production in Ghana has increased at a rate of 10.5 percent annually over the last 15 years, both in terms of intensive/commercial and extensive/free-ranging animals. However, demand still exceeds domestic production by 20 percent. This data is supported by Trade Data LLC that about 7,000 metric tonnes of pork and pork products were imported into the country between 2017 and 2022. Well done to the Ghanaian pig farmer and others in the value chain – who according to the Ghana Country Analysis locally produced 28,392 tonnes of pork in 2018, as against 3,000 tonnes of imported pork during the same period.
Overall, however, the processing depth of meat in Ghana is low. Pork is usually cut into coarse, household-sized pieces by local butchers; and unless sold in a supermarket, it is not usually processed into sausages, minced or specialised cuts.
The increase in demand indicates real opportunities in the pig industry if enough attention and support is provided to farmers and others involved in the pig processing value chain. The benefits which will accrue to the Ghanaian economy cannot be overemphasised.
Challenges facing the pig industry
Notwithstanding opportunities of the industry, the realities of commercial production mean that very few participants can succeed in the sector. Aside from land, almost all consumables to ensure optimum production are imported. This, in addition to the factors below, makes commercial pig farming a daunting task:
- High cost of feed – Feed accounts for about 70 percent of overheads in a typical pig farm. With the current global crises coupled with Ghana’s economic situation, the cost of feed has shot through the roof. This is in part the reason most farmers undertake pig farming on a small scale. Such farmers have to rely on government policies and decisions to acquire farming implements and supplements.
It is no wonder the B&FT reported on January 30, 2023 that ‘without swift action, the poultry industry risks collapse due to high costs of inputs and importation’. This statement can be extended to pig farmers, who according to the Pig Farmers Association are closing down their farms. They just cannot afford the feed and other medication required to rear pigs; and
- Lack of targetted support to the pig industry – In 2017 the government of Ghana established the Planting for Food & Jobs (PFJ) without a specific component for animal husbandry. Two years later in 2019, an extension to include animal husbandry was made with the initiative Rearing for Food & Jobs (RFJ).
The sequence of these interventions reflect how government support in times past has given little attention and urgency to animal husbandry compared to other subsectors in Agric. The jury is out on whether the objectives of RFJ to increase production capacity and intensity of animal husbandry has been achieved.
The above notwithstanding, It is noteworthy that Development Partners are committing and doing more for agriculture in Ghana. For instance, on 29th January 2023 at a food security summit for the African continent held in Dakar, the African Development Bank president indicated that Development Partners had committed over US$30billion to boost food production in Africa. The question is whether the government of Ghana is taking steps to ensure that Ghanaian pig farmers benefit from such interventions.
Africa has examples for Ghana
The situation elsewhere in Africa however provides important lessons for Ghana. In Rwanda, a study indicates that government is ready and willing to support agriculture and in particular, pig production. The implementing agency of the Rwandan Agriculture Ministry, the Rwanda Agriculture Board, is hands-on and provides technical and innovative support to farmers. Veterinary officers are easily accessible and the cost of their services is heavily subsidised by government.
The Rwandan government is supporting farmers to improve genetics and the quality of animal breeds with the establishment of Artificial Insemination centres (AI Centres). These AI Centres harvest semen from healthy boars, store them at optimal temperatures and transport them to pig farmers around the country and to the most remote villages for insemination. This process and transportation of semen is heavily subsidised by the Rwandan government. Pig breeds have improved as a result, and birth rates increased.
In Ghana, the few AI centres available are privately owned. Consequently, they cannot make the needed impact to improve the quality of pig breeds in the country. Even if they had the capacity for semen production across Ghana, there is currently no system to facilitate transportation from their facilities to other pig farmers. Of the two countries, it is obvious that Rwanda will be better positioned to access funding by Development Partners and other similar opportunities
The way forward
Food security continues to be a matter of interest around the world. One way most nations have achieved food security is self-reliance to produce what they eat and import where necessary. Ghana is experiencing the effects of over-reliance on importation, with price hikes and unavailability of food products as a result of volatility in the global market. We need to learn lessons and proceed cautiously.
Although we cannot produce all that we need as a country, we can work fervently toward self-sufficiency – especially with food. We should build the pork value chain’s capacity from farming to aggregation, processing and then to marketing. Our pig farmers should be equipped to compete fairly in any market, especially in their own homeland.
As it stands, should government go ahead with mass importation of pork and pork products, the Ghanaian pig farmer cannot compete and will suffer the same fate as the local poultry industry.
Government must engage with stakeholders of the sector, including the Pig Farmers Association of Ghana and other organised institutions to gain real insight into the industry which will feed into positive actionable policies and programmes.
In conclusion, pork continues to be one of the healthiest and most widely consumed meats in the world. Most of its parts are useful – including pig waste, which is used as fuel for bio-gas. The industry in Ghana is growing steadily and has the capacity to positively impact the Ghanaian economy if it receives the necessary attention and support. It is imperative that the support forms part of government’s agriculture agenda and programmes to ensure the industry does not collapse. In addition, government must actively support and campaign for Ghanaians to eat local, and purchase pork and pork products from local farmers.