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Ghana extends ban on grain exports

Isaac Mugabi
May 27, 2022

Ghana has extended a ban on the export of some grains such as rice and maize. It wants to ensure food security as Russia's war on Ukraine disrupts global food supply chains.

Sacks of grain produce
Grain shortages in Africa has pushed countries to protectionismImage: McPhotoStr/Bildagentur-online/picture alliance

Ghana has announced it will extended a export ban on produce such as as maize, rice, soybeans, and other grains.

The ban which took effect in September 2021, was due to expire at the end of March. It will now run until September 2022.

The original ban was put in place to ensure that enough grains were available within the country to boost the country's local poultry and livestock production.

After Burkina Faso, Algeria, Tunsia and Egypt, Ghana becomes the fifth nation on the African continent to react to soaring grain prices and the disruption to global trade caused partly by Russia's war on Ukraine.

But some Ghanaian farmers are unhappy with the extended ban, saying they would get better prices if they could sell their crops outside of the West African country. They want the government to lift the ban.

Struggling farmers

It's early morning in Yilo Nayili village, Tamale, northern Ghana, and 46-year-old Wangarindo Nantogmah, a small-scale local farmer is busy thatching the roof of his tiny leaking room. At this time of the day, he would usually be tending to his crops. But the soaring price of fertilizers in Ghana mean that he can't tend to his garden as often as he would wish.

"We have to plow our farms, but the prices of fertilizer and chemicals break our hearts because we cannot afford to buy them this year," he said.

A recent government directive banning the export of grains translates into abject poverty for Wangarindo. He had hoped that grain shortages on the international market would be a boost to his income since he would sell his produce of corn and soybeans at a higher price.

For Wangarindo, the decision to ban the export of their products is a big blow to him and other farmers in Ghana.

"If the government can't control the price of farm inputs like fertilizers, how does it expect us to stay in business by lowering the cost of our produce?" he mused.

 Volunteers distribute lunch consisting of maize and peas
High demand for maize – a staple in Africa has pushed prices soaring Image: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Ban justified

Ghana justified its ban on grain, according to Christopher Aki, who heads the unit that issues certification for grain exporters. 

"Due to the current situation [war in Ukraine], the government decided to take measures to stop the exportation of grain in order to make food balance stable in the country," Aki said.

"That is why there's a ban on the major food crops that we all know — maize, rice, and soybeans."

Around Africa, farmers are grappling with high costs of farm inputs this year, with many governments attributing the cost to the Ukraine war.

However, the head of applied economics at Ghana's University for Development Studies in Tamale, Dr. Michael Ayamga, feels the government needed to think things through before imposing the ban.

"You need to use market mechanisms and not the draconian and controlled approach government has adopted by trying to make it impossible for farmers to export rather than giving them the incentives to sell within," Ayamga told DW.

Many farmers in Ghana fear the ban could create a black market if the government fails to negotiate appropriately with the farmers.

A customs officer
Custom officials always on the lookout for grain exportersImage: Sander Koning/ANP/picture alliance

Alternative routes

On the other side of the continent, the East African nation of Uganda is a major agricultural producer.

And foodstuffs dominate Uganda's regional exports, which are primarily trucked to Kenya, South Sudan and Congo.

But even though Uganda has no ban on food exports, traders are complaining that they are selling much less than they usually do to their neighbors.

Goods grown locally in Uganda are getting more expensive by the day. Plus the cost of fuel needed to truck the produce over the borders is skyrocketing. That's caused exports to fall off considerably.

"Before things were okay, sometime back we were sending a lorry a day, even three lorries in a day," said Andrua Kassim Ali, a transporter of agricultural goods, who was waiting for a load at the Arua Bus Park in Uganda's capital, Kampala.

Now, he says, the farmers aren't giving him any produce to transport.

And when traders do manage to sell their goods outside of Uganda, they are facing a new problem – getting paid by their contacts on the other end.

Issa Sekitto from the Kampala City Traders Association says many small exporters are complaining that they aren't being paid because their buyers in Kenya and South Sudan are used to paying a much lower price.

"The prices have changed so much," he said, "so now "business is becoming a legal battle between the supplier and then the beneficiary on the other side, adding that this has made business "very slow."

Uganda's minister of ICT and National Guidance, Chris Baryomunsi, told DW that the government was focused on getting inflation under control by "boosting production".

"Therefore, the comfort that we give Ugandans is that they should be patient and persevere. It's a global phenomenon, but soon the prices shall stabilize, and we return to normal," Baryomunsi told DW.


Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has vowed not to cut taxes on grain exportsImage: Philbert Rweyemamu/EAC

No government intervention amid skyrocketing prices

In a recent address to the nation, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said his government would not intervene amid an outcry from food exporters and the rising cost of living. Museveni said that "government subsidies or removing taxes would collapse the economy."

"Surges have occasioned the rising prices of goods in the cost of petroleum products and other imports amid global supply chain constraints following the war in Ukraine."

"Subsidies for and removing taxes from imported products is suicide because it will deplete both the family savings and the national reserves," Museveni added.

But economist Julius Mukunda disagreed with Museveni, attributing the high costs for commodities to the Russian-Ukrainian war and not intervening.

Instead, Mukunda said, "the government should instead give incentives to business owners to boost their trade.

"The Russian-Ukrainian effect hasn't arrived yet. It is likely to begin probably next year. We are experiencing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic; therefore, our government must support small businesses," Mukunda added.

Mukunda suggested that "export taxes should be less because they bring in foreign currency into the country and guarantee markets for food exporters."

Many food growers in Uganda export their produce to neighboring South Sudan. But the unstable political situation there is another challenge for those wanting to export their produce their. 

Robert Ssuuna, a research fellow at Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, a public policy research organization, said food exporters should expect less until the domestic economic troubles are resolved.

"Traders are expected to export less because of the insecurities in South Sudan. So why should we even think about exporting foodstuffs?" Ssuuna said. "If the government is still struggling to maintain the domestic prices, it will be challenging for them [government] to even think about the exporters at least in the medium term. But the government is aware of their situation, I am sure."

Maxwell Suuk in Ghana and Frank Yiga contributed to this report.

Edited by: Keith Walker

The original version of this article stated that Uganda had banned grain exports. This is not the case. This article has been amended accordingly. The quote by Minister Chris Baryomunsi has also been updated to make it clear he was referring to inflation, and not food exports.

We apologize for these errors.

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