Editorial

Editorial: MoFA should collaborate with traders to beat down prices of food items

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Editorial

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) has commenced sales of some foodstuffs in Accra ostensibly to beat down their high costs following the recent economic challenges.

The Ministry transports plantains and yams in trucks from the farm gates to Accra to sell cheaply to the public.

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the sector Minister, engaged farmers in the Western North Region and observed that food prices increase by about ten-fold when transported to the capital, Accra, from the recent increases in fuel prices.

Yesterday, a truckload of foodstuffs landed in Accra Central, and we witnessed a mad rush from the public, who could not keep calm lest they miss out on the goods.

We understand from various media engagements by officials of the Ministry that the main idea behind the direct sales is being achieved, as the regular foodstuffs traders are being compelled to reduce their unreasonable high profit margins. The MoFA has also stated that it intends to extend the gesture to the regional capitals.

Hitherto, reports suggested that traders were taking advantage of the economic crisis to unfairly increase the prices of even their old stocks of foodstuffs.

Unfortunate as that may sound the action by the Ministry appears to have given some respite. We are informed that a sucker of plantains that used to sell for GH¢70, goes for GH¢30 at the Ministry’s market. This low price is reflected in all the other food items the Ministry sells, including local rice, cooking oil, and yam. The Ministry has said it will continue to sell these foodstuffs to mitigate the challenges Ghanaians are facing with regards to the high costs of food items.

While many members of the public have praised the Ministry’s intervention, regular traders are dissatisfied with the government’s decision to control food prices through the MoFA.

The traders have belittled the efforts of the Ministry, arguing that even in the traditional markets, some plantains are selling for GH¢5, and as such, the intervention was not novelle.

The Secretary of the Dome New Market Women’s Association, who made the statement, also challenged the Ministry to come out and say whether it made profit despite the current fuel price increases.

The Ghana Traders Union Association (GUTA) has also expressed worry over this price control mechanism. According to them, the Ministry was only positioning the traditional traders in a bad light before the public.

GUTA argues that the Ministry could not compare its prices to those of ordinary traders, who face challenges due to the high cost of transportation, unlike the Ministry, which has logistics at its disposal and is able to subsidise prices. They think the measure is not sustainable, because prices can be controlled if value is added.

We have observed the arguments of the MoFA, the Market Women Association, and the GUTA, alongside the reactions of the public.

While we agree with the traders, we do not think that based on the rate of price increases, the Ministry is taking the wrong path. We rather see the measure as a government cushioning its people at a time of difficulty.

Indeed, the action of the Ministry has dispelled the notion that there was a scarcity of food in the country. Rather, food is in abundance at the farm gates, but the traders cannot afford the cost of transports to cart it to where it is needed.

The Chronicle, however, suggests to the Ministry to engage the traders through their associations to see how the issue of transport costs could be solved, as that is the major factor leading to the price increases.

In our view, if the government is able to transport foodstuffs from the farm gate it would not be out of place to collaborate with the traders for a wider reach. The MoFA can go all-out with its market strategy only after the government has alleviated the suffering of ordinary traders, and they are not refraining from their old deeds of outrageously increasing prices of foodstuffs in the name of fuel hikes.

THE CHRONICLE

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