Export restrictions on soybeans threaten the industry’s survival

Soybeans exportation Sector risks collapse

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Soyabeans
Soyabeans

Ms Seidu Fuseina, a 22-year-old student, risks not becoming the first psychiatric nurse from her community in the North East Region because she is unable to pay her final year school fees at the training school.

That is not all. Her twin sister, Asana Seidu, a level 300 student at the university, is also confronted with the same challenge and is currently at home.

Like the adage says: “The devil finds work for the idle hands”, Asana is now pregnant, a development which worsens her predicament.

Their father, Mr Nanmor Seidu, who is into soybeans cultivation, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that he was disappointed seeing his daughters loitering at home whilst school was in session. He attributed the situation to the low demand for his soybeans produce, which hitherto, was generating enough money to cater for his needs.

He said: “My dream of giving my daughters quality education, so that they can escape poverty and gender related violence, is gradually crashing before my very own eyes.”

Mr Amidu Walker Kudos, another soybeans farmer and an aggregator from the Central Gonja District of the Savannah Region, who used to cultivate over 100 acres, is now almost being forced out of business as he could not access a ready market for his produce.

He said in 2021, he cultivated about 120 acres of soybeans but in 2022, he was not able to plough even a single acre.

Mr Kudos bounced back in 2023, where he cultivated 18 acres of soybeans. He told the GNA that the unfortunate development had not only rendered him jobless but had also affected the numerous women and other young people, who were working under him.

The above situation is not different from Mr Alhassan Abdulai, another soybeans farmer at Kpunkpanu in the Mion District of the Northern Region, whose cultivation drastically reduced from 200 acres in 2021, to only 80 acres in 2023.

He said all his 50 workers had been laid off because he could not afford to pay their allowances.

Restriction on soybean exportation

On October 05, 2020, the Parliament of Ghana passed a Legislative Instrument (L.I 2432) on the export and import of soybeans to help regulate its trade in the country.

The regulation restricted farmers in Ghana from exporting certain commodities including soybeans as part of measures to enhance food security in the country.

The restriction was geared towards making soybeans available for processing into poultry feeds to help revamp the poultry industry that was struggling to survive because of lack of sufficient feeds.

Emerging challenges as result of the restriction

Following the restriction, farmers across the country are now finding it difficult to access viable markets for their produce resulting in several agitations for government to lift the ban/restriction.

In May, this year, the Ghana Soybeans Farmers and Aggregators Association petitioned government to lift the restriction saying over 100,000 farmers and aggregators across the country were on the verge of losing their jobs and businesses.

Unfortunately, most of the aggrieved farmers are now venturing into the cultivation of other crops where they have little experience and resources, thus resulting in post-harvest losses, which poses serious threat to food security in the country, and efforts at achieving the goal two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.

Soybeans are part of the species of legume, widely cultivated in East Asia and in Africa. It is one of the important sources of food, protein and vegetable oil that are critical to addressing the prevalence of malnutrition in Ghana, especially in the northern sector where malnutrition is at its peak.

Soybeans cultivation is not capital intensive and thus requires less input as compared to other crops, making it a suitable crop for farmers in the northern sector, especially where there is high prevalence of unemployment and poverty.

Investigations by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) from farming communities in the Yendi Municipality in May 2023 discovered that a 100 kilogramme bag of soyabean was sold at GHc400 at the farm gate as against the previous price of GHc800 for the same quality in 2019.

It revealed that most farmers, especially in the Mion, Chereponi, Central Gonja and Saboba Districts were now shifting from the cultivation of soybeans, maize and rice to cultivation of sorghum, millet and beans to attract a ready market.

This development, if not arrested, could lead to low productivity in major cereal crops, which have the potential of draining the national food basket.

Mr Issah Abdul-Hakeem, Director in-charge of Administration at the Ghana Soybeans Farmers and Aggregators Association, in an interview with GNA, said the ban/restriction on soybeans exportation rather worsened the food security situation of the country.

He said the local processors, mandated by the government to buy their produce, were unable to buy them at good prices.

He said: “Apart from the low prices offered by the local processors, the local processors themselves cannot buy, yet the government restricted farmers from exporting their produce to where they can get equitable market.”

Mr Abdul-Hakeem said the restriction was a violation of the African Continental Free Trade, which Ghana is a member.

Soybean cultivation in Ghana

The country’s annual soybeans production potential is about 700,000 metric tonnes. However, only about 26 per cent of this potential is being met.

Until the restriction on the exportation of soybeans, there was a steady increase in production, providing employment and other business opportunities for the youth.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in its report in 2019, suggested that soybeans production in 2008 increased from 74,800 metric tonnes to 176,670 metric tonnes in 2018, whilst area under cultivation also increased from 61,800 hectares to 102,980 hectares during the same period.

With this huge potential for soybeans cultivation in the country, why will the government choose to ban its exportation instead of investing more into the sector to meet both local and international demands?

Mr Raymond Enye, Project Specialist at Agrisolve, an agriculture development and social impact organisation, said lifting the ban on the exportation of soybeans would strengthen the resilience of farmers, especially the smallholder farmers, who were directly involved in the soybeans production.

Way forward

Government must prioritise repealing the restrictions or suspending it to encourage young people to go into Soybeans farming.

Again, the government must invest and resource farmers to cultivate more soybeans that will meet both local and international demands instead of restricting its exportation.

Besides, government should collaborate with other NGOs to establish indigenous factories that will feed from the cultivation of soybean products to create more employment opportunities for the teaming youth in the country and to encourage more young people to venture into the soybeans business.

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