All five warehouses belonging to the Ghana Buffer Stock Company, GBSC, do not have any cereals in stock to meet demands in case of any national emergency.
The warehouses located in Kumasi, Sunyani, Wenchi, Tamale and Yendi in which the company once stocked up to 350,000 bags of grains including soya, maize and rice are all empty.
The company set up in 2010 by the Mill’s government is mandated to among others things hold grains in stock as national emergency food buffer.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO, of the United Nations, every country should reserve a quantity of grains that can last at least three months should there be a crisis. However with the unavailability of the grain stocks, it means Ghana cannot feed itself for even a week should there be any national crisis.
GBSC’s warehouse in Kumasi takes 12,000 bags of rice and maize while that in Sunyani takes 60,000 bags, Wenchi takes up to 30,000 bags whereas that in Tamale can stock 80,000 bags. The one in Yendi takes up to 60,000 bags of grains. In addition, the company was even renting private warehouses to stock up grains it bought just five years ago.
According to well-placed sources, the warehouses are empty because the buffer company does not have the needed funds to restock them.
The company is owed up to GHC14 million by government nd private companies – GHC4m by government while the private companies owe GHC10 million.
Before the warehouses went completely empty, GBSC had stopped purchasing and stocking soya for several years due to the low volumes being cultivated.
GBSC, two years ago, stopped purchasing rice which it stocked for distribution to government agencies and programs including the School Feeding Programme because it was not being paid for the supplies.
Maize which was still being purchased, preserved and distributed until now was supplied to only poultry farmers and feed millers.
Operations manager of the company, Mr. Kenneth Acquaye expressing his unhappiness about the situation lamented to Goldstreet Business that his outfit has not been paid by government for the supplies it made to state-owned organizations and private companies since 2014.
“So we have not been buying produce for two years now. If someone owes you, it means he is holding on to your capital and when government is not recapitalizing your operations, it becomes difficult to operate. Currently we are not stocking due to financial constraints.”
There are reports the new government is seeking to privatize the operations of the GBSC because it has not functioned efficiently for the past three years, a move Mr. Aquaye described as unfortunate.
He said “No country leaves the management of its buffer stock to foreign interests or private enterprises, no country does that for obvious reasons like war. If you go to Israel they don’t permit access, China is the same, same with the U.S where you don’t even know where it is and this applies to even some African countries, but in Ghana it is open and yet we are not serious.
“You cannot give this operation to the private sector because in other countries the public is not even in the know how much food they are stocking for emergency, the enemy can capitalize on that to operate,” he lamented.
Mr. Acuaye stated that “every country has got an emergency reserve, but Ghana does not even have a week of emergency reserve because we don’t have the funds.”
During the 2011 flood disaster, the company provided 23,000 bags of grains to the National Disaster Management Organization, NADMO, for onward distribution to affected areas.
In Mr. Acquaye’s view, the company must be supported by government to continue its operations.
“We are not serious when it comes to maintaining buffer stock just like the previous government who although set it up, was never serious with it. Our start-up money of GHC15 million has been exhausted and that is what we have been running with. Other countries are very serious.
“Nigeria started with US$294m, Zambia recapitalizes its buffer stock with US$60m every year. Even Zimbabwe puts in not less than US$20m every year, yet if you put all of our assets together, we are still holding about GHC15m, he said
The company is also mandated to encourage the consumption of local produce including rice by selling to state institutions such as the military, schools, hospitals and the prisons service but the company has not been able to achieve that goal due to lack of funds.
By Nana Oye Ankrah