Feature Article of Sunday, 14 October 2012
Columnist: Amoabin, Kofi
America has been known as the “Farm Gate” for the developing world; however, the after-effects of the worst drought in over 50 years are testing America’s resolve to feed the world.
The US Department of Agriculture reported in September that American corn stocks were at the lowest level since 1995 and the second- lowest since 1960.
The record low corn stocks are a result of the worse drought in over 50 years and mean that the United States Department of Agriculture could ration corn before the next crop is harvested in September 2013. In the case of corn rationing, the United States might limit exports.
The drought decimated farms in the Corn Belt. In August, the price of corn jumped to about $8.50 a basket, the highest price level on record.
With corn stocks this low, the United States, the leader in food exports, would limit supply of corn available for exports, which could impact food security in the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Many sub-Saharan countries import corn, poultry, and other food products and thus could be affected by the drought in the United States.
The United Nations has warned developing countries about potential food shortages. This warning was echoed at the FAO meeting in Hong Kong by Kevin Rudd, the former prime minister of Australia, who called for concrete actions to solve perennial food insecurity in developing countries.
“A practical programme against the billions of people who are hungry in the world today needs to be done — not another set of reports, not another set of committees. Action, action, action,” Rudd said.
Ghana is a good example: in 2011, it produced 1.5 million metric tonnes of corn but imported 139, 000 metric tonnes of frozen poultry and 50,000 metric tonnes of corn. It also produced 276,000 metric tonnes of rice, but imported 400,000 metric tonnes
In 2008, Ghana’s then opposition party, the NDC, generated a buzz by claiming that it would ensure that Ghana was self-sufficient in terms of corn and rice production. Almost four years after being voted into power, food imports continue at a record pace. The current government in Ghana has stopped talking about self-sufficiency for rice and corn production.
Sadly, thousands upon thousands of acres of fertile land lie fallow in Ghana.
At Ejura Farms, in the Ejura District in Ashanti Region, agricultural machinery, including plows, tractors, and trucks, sit idle, surrounded by grass taller than the machinery. The farm land has turned into a mini-forest.
Food insecurity leads to hunger, poverty, and political instability, and African leaders need to take action to thwart a potential food crisis across a continent that is so blessed by Mother Nature.
The author, Kofi Amoabin, is a futures market analyst with Futures Marketing Enterprises in Chicago.