If Rice Is Too Expensive, Let Them Eat Cake - Dapaah
In a shocking statement on Paul Adom Otchere’s Metro TV show Dr. Dapaah, Chief Technical Advisor to Kwasi Ahwoi the Minister of Food and Agriculture, implied that if rice is too expensive for the urban populations of Accra and Kumasi they must rather eat cassava. The show on Metro TV explored the topic of local rice production and the issue of rice smuggling into Ghana. Dr. Dapaah and Mr. John Awuni, a member of the Food and Beverages Association of Ghana (FABAG) were the panelists on what Paul Adom Otchere described as a discussion in the interest of the Ghanaian consumer. On the question of high rice prices aggravated by high import duties of 37 percent or more Dr. Dapaah implied that rice only comprised 5 percent of the national food basket – mostly preferred by the urban populations of Accra and Kumasi – and that cassava and yam was the staple food of the majority of Ghanaians. By implication he said those consumers who preferred rice but were unhappy about high costs should eat cassava or yam. This reminds one of the misattributed quotation to Marie Antoinette “Let them eat cake”. This quotation was claimed to have been uttered during one of the famines that occurred in France during the reign of her husband Louis XVI. Upon being alerted that the people were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, the Queen is said to have replied, “Then let them eat brioche (cake).” Although the phrase was seldom cited by opponents of the monarchy at the time of the French Revolution, it did acquire great symbolic importance in subsequent histories when pro-revolutionary historians sought to demonstrate the obliviousness and selfishness of the French upper-classes at that time. The question that Ghanaians must now ask themselves is if this implied statement by Dr. Dapaah demonstrates the obliviousness and selfishness of the Kwasi Ahwoi Ministry of Food and Agriculture, or indeed of the Mills lead government as a whole. The program further revealed that poor quality locally produced rice only caters for 30 percent – according to MOFA – of consumer demand in Ghana. However, in November 2009 the Vice President of Ghana, Mr. John Mahama, publicly stated that local rice production has decreased and that it can only satisfy 10 percent of local demand. This exposed another major shortcoming in government policy formulation. How can you manage a country without accurate information? Another grave concern was the statement by Mr. John Awuni of FABAG that Kwasi Ahwoi, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, publicly stated that the food importers “can go to hell and leave the country. If one assumes that the figure of 30 percent is correct (that is the contribution of local production to consumer demand in Ghana), what will happen if rice importers “go to hell and leave Ghana” as advised by Kwasi Ahwoi. One does not need to be an economist to figure this out – rice will become unaffordable to the majority of rice eating Ghanaians. When 100 people go to the market and only 30 can get hold of rice, market forces (supply and demand) will propel the price of rice through the roof and out of reach of most Ghanaians. The Metro TV programme and what emanated from it should be of grave concern to all Ghanaians. As the most successful democracy in Africa the signs on the wall must be clear to all. The people appointed by the people to serve the people seem to have personal agendas instead of the agenda of the people of this country. Furthermore it more-and-more looks as if they do not even understand the essence of what food security is all about. Mr. Dapaah kept on talking about the rice issue as a development issue, implying that Local production must be promoted at all cost. Food security is not about local production. It is about the government making sure that there is enough foodstuff according to the preference of the people that are affordable and healthy or nutritious. It is not the fault of millions of Ghanaian consumers that local rice production falls short in both quality and quantity. It is the fault of this and previous governments. “Let them eat cake.” Is this the arrogant attitude of only MOFA, or indeed of the Presidency and Executive of Ghana?