The tour was as a result of a request once made by Ghana’s Trade Minister, Ms Hannah Tetteh at a high level meeting with US officials. The meeting looked at how the US can assist in increasing local poultry production in Ghana. This is believed can help reduce the amount of poultry importation into the country.
The Ghana team is made up of officials from the Ghana National Poultry Farmers Association, government as well as journalists.
The team is hosted here in Atlanta, Georgia by the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council (USAPEEC).
Meanwhile, about 70,000 tons of chicken was imported into Ghana from the US in 2011, according an official at the Foreign Agricultural Department at the US Embassy in Accra.
In 2010 alone, the US, EU and Brazil together were said to have exported over 200,000 tons of frozen chicken to Ghana, valued at $200 million, a situation local poultry farmers are unhappy about.
The farmers have repeatedly registered their unhappiness with Ghanaian governments (both past and present) over the handling of the poultry sector.
During a debate in Accra on the topic “Is Importing Chicken Good for Ghana?” held last year August 1, 2011, the farmers blamed government for letting the poultry industry down.
The farmers argued that the country seems to be clueless about how to save the industry. They added, that governments keep repeating policies on poultry whenever a national budget is read. They say governments make promises to help farmers to acquire equipment and increase taxes on imported chicken. They cited a budget statement which indicated that government will help poultry farmers to increase production to meet the domestic demand by the year 2012.
According to the poultry farmers, there was a time that parliament passed a law to increase taxes on the importation of frozen chicken but that law was never implemented due to pressures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The the law, they said “was not meant for the poor.”
“They are taking us for granted and they seem to be getting away with that,” one poultry farmer said.
When ghanabusinessnews.com interviewed the 2007 National Best Farmer, Alhaji Abdul Salaam Akate, who also participated in the forum, he bemoaned the situation, saying it is becoming more challenging to farmers and it will get out of hand if government does not act to deal with it.
“Clearly if you listen to the discussions, you can say that there is crisis in the poultry industry,” said Alhaji Akate, the managing director of Akate Farms. The Farms has over 600,000 birds including hens and chickens.
According to Alhaji Akate, he buys about two hundred tons of maize a week to feed the livestock now that prices of “soya-beans and other products are high.”
“Borrowing is very costly to the farmer…In the olden days, we used to have something like an agricultural loan and the interest rate was good but its no more there and the challenges are many,” said Akate whose company is a recipient of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG) Best Agro Company Award.
While in Atlanta, the USAPEEC will conduct the Ghana team around American poultry farms, hatcheries, feed mills, processing facilities, restaurants and retail stores.
Some places to be visited are Tyson Foods which is one of the world’s largest processors and marketers of chicken, Americold and Fieldale Farms, all in Atlanta.
The ten-day tour is also to enhance the knowledge of local Ghanaian farmers on food security.
The focus is to learn more about the quality and wholesomeness of US poultry products, says the USAPEEC.
By Ekow Quandzie in Atlanta, Georgia, USA