Food Crops and Livestock
Preparing a field for planting yams
Courtesy Embassy of Ghana, Washington
The main food crops are corn, yams, cassava, and other root
crops. Despite government efforts to encourage farmers to switch to
production of staples, total food production fell by an average of
2.7 percent per year between 1971-73 and 1981-83. By 1983 Ghana was
self-sufficient in only one staple food crop--plantains. Food
imports rose from 43,000 tons in 1973 to 152,000 tons in 1981.
Those were various reasons for this poor performance, including
growing urbanization and a shift in consumer preference from
starchy home-grown staples to rice and corn. However, farmers also
suffered from shortages of production inputs, difficulties in
transporting produce to market, and competition from imported foods
that were underpriced because of the vastly overvalued cedi.
Weather also played a major part, particularly in 1983, when
drought cut cereal production from 518,000 tons in 1982 to only
450,000 tons at a time when an extra million people had to be fed
after the expulsion of Ghanaians from Nigeria. Food imports in
1982-83 amounted to 115,000 tons (40 percent as food aid), with the
1983-84 shortfall estimated at 370,000 tons (of which food aid
commitments covered 91,000 tons).
There was a spectacular improvement beginning in 1984, mainly
because of recovery from the prior year's drought. By 1988 the
agricultural sector had vastly expanded, with food crops
responsible for the bulk of the increase. Drought conditions
returned in 1990, bringing massive falls in the production of all
food crops apart from rice, but better weather and improved
production brought prices down in 1991.
In August 1990, the government moved to liberalize the
agricultural sector, announcing the end of minimum crop prices. The
measure's impact was difficult to gauge because higher production
meant more food was available at better prices anyway. The
government's medium-term plan, outlined in 1990, sought to raise
average crop yields and to increase food security, with special
attention to improved producer incentives and storage facilities.
Livestock production is severely limited by the incidence of
tsetse fly in Ghana's forested regions and by poor grazing
vegetation elsewhere. It is of major importance only in the
relatively arid north and has not been earmarked for special
treatment in Ghana's recovery program. In 1989 there were an
estimated 1.2 million cattle, 2.2 million sheep, 2 million goats,
550,000 pigs, and 8 million chickens in Ghana.
Data as of November 1994