Professor Oliver Morrissey, Director of the Centre for Research in Economic Development and International Trade, University of Nottingham, UK, said Ghana needed to add value to its primary export commodities to ensure socio-economic development.
He said that if Ghana diversified its rich resources into industries and processed its primary export commodities, the country could overcome its vulnerability to negative changes at the world market.
Prof. Morrissey made the call at the launch of Trade Policy and Pro-Poor Growth project launched by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana in Accra.
He expressed dissatisfaction that though Ghana and most African countries were major exporters at the world market, prices of their export commodities were determined by the rest of the world.
“It is sad that African countries do not undertake sufficient amount of processing of their exported commodities. There is the situation that coffee or cocoa is exported in its very raw form and it is turned or processed elsewhere”.
“Ghanaian policymakers need to implement effective ways of addressing the said challenges so that the country could use its resources instead of simply selling them to other countries,” Prof Morrissey said.
“It may take five or 10 years to overcome this huge setback but it is better to start planning to do some constructive work now rather than letting things continue the way they are,” he added.
The two-year “Pro-Poor Growth in Ghana” project funded by ISSER is to improve policy makers and analyst’s comprehension of the poverty and distributional impacts of trade and policy reform in Ghana.
Dr Charles Ackah, Research Fellow and Principal Investigator of ISSER, said the project had revealed that nearly 400,000 Ghanaians were now poor as a result of recent global food price increase.
“These are people who were living above the poverty line, but now can no longer afford two dollars a day because prices have increased dramatically,” he said.
Dr. Ackah expressed shock that though Ghana practiced an agricultural economy, it could not absorb the shocks of food price hikes on the global market.
“When food prices are going up you expect the Ghanaian farmer to benefit. I expect my grandmother who produces maize or my aunt who produces sorghum in the Northern Region to benefit from high prices of food because they have to sell and get more money, but this is not so.”
Dr Ackah explained that the current situation was partly because most farmers were more of consumers than producers.
“Most of the farmers are themselves hit by the price increase in food because they themselves consume all the food they produce and even go to the market to buy. For that reason even when food prices go up they don’t benefit”.
He said the project would seek to identify the causes of the sad trend in order to address them.
Dr Felix Asante, Senior Research Fellow and Head of Economics Division of ISSER, said the ISSER was committed to promoting the socio-economic development of the country through “solid social science and research with commitments to adding to the existing knowledge about society and development in Ghana”.