In the wake of the lockdown of certain parts of Ghana, mainly Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi, aimed at stemming the rapid spread of the Coronavirus among our population, very surprising and at the same time interesting things have happened leaving some of us no choice than to think that it is hunger occasioned by greed, selfishness and wickedness that will kill us here in Ghana before the Virus does.
As usual, Ghanaians will never disappoint when it comes to taking undue advantage of situations whether the consequences are dire for their compatriots or not. Since the debate about locking down the country, or parts of it emerged in the court of public opinion, one could observe the gradual but progressive rise in the price of food stuff and other basic consumables due to gradually increasing demand. As people began to anticipate the lockdown, they resorted to buying more than they usually would at a go for keeping because no one knew the exact nature of the lockdown should it ever happen.
Lo and behold, the president, on the night of Saturday March 28, 2020, announced that the country had no option than to implement a form of lockdown of the identified hotspots of the disease beginning at 1am on Monday, 30th March, 2020.
I had gone to the market myself on Friday afternoon to also beef up my stock just as many other people were doing. Prices of goods were quite high but I found it to be a bit normal given the economic fact that increased demand will lead to some automatic increases in prices as had been witnessed some weeks back in the case of hand sanitizers when the country recorded its first two cases of the virus.
While those of us who were in the market on the preceding Friday were grumbling about the marginal hikes in the prices of food items, little did we know that the worst was yet to come on Sunday after the President’s announcement of the lockdown, the explanation of which showed that it was indeed not a total but partial lockdown. This meant that some level of movement was going to be allowed but on a limited scale, especially for the exempted government organizations, providers of some essential services and for individuals who needed to go out there to get food items at all cost.
This notwithstanding, what happened on our markets on Sunday, 29th March has never been witnessed in this country in about 37 years. Only those who were old enough to experience the drought and hardships of 1983 could feel they had seen this before. An America tin (Olonka) of gari which sold for Seven Ghana Cedis (Ghs 7) three weeks ago and Nine Ghana Cedis (Ghs 9) just the Friday before the announcement of the lockdown now sold for a whooping Twenty-five Ghana (Ghs 25). For the first time in my life, I saw a tuber of yam, which obviously comes nowhere near the biggest tuber of yam I have ever seen, sell unbelievably for Thirty Ghana Cedis (Ghs 30). Incredible, isn’t it! In just about 48 hours, prices of basic food items on most markets in Accra had shot up in two to three folds as a result of the lockdown of the coronavirus hotspots partially for 14 days.
As a result of these unfolding surprises, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto had no choice than to call on all actors within the market space to stop pressing the panic button as though the country had just been plunged into war leading to sudden food shortage. He went on to assure Ghanaians that there is no food shortage in Ghana and hence no need for hiking the prices of food and other consumables. Again, in providing further and finer details of the lockdown, the Minster for Information, Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah severally reiterated the point that people would be allowed to move to the market along as the aim was to purchase food items.
In spite of all these assurances, prices of food items and most consumables are still inexplicably high on the markets and in the shops several days into the lockdown. This leads me to the point I have been driving at all this while. Why will the Ghanaian take advantage of any unfortunate situation to milk his fellow Ghanaian dry when, in actual fact, that is when we should actually be sympathetic towards each other? Have we really run short of cassava, yam, maize, rice and other staples in this country all of a sudden? Has the movement of goods from the production areas to the consumption centres in the cities been curtailed by the lockdown?
It will be very easy to blame these challenges on the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant effects on the economic and social wellbeing of the nation but in my humble opinion, we are nowhere near that point of distress where families will have to ration meals or go to bed on empty stomach. We need a little bit of honesty, candour, truthfulness and humaneness on the part of all so that we can all have food to eat to survive these tough times. Let’s not kill ourselves through selfishness and greed before coronavirus does. Afterall, some of us still hold unto the firm belief that, by divine grace, the vast majority of those who unfortunately get infected will survive it. Let’s be kind to ourselves!
Opinion Piece by: Solomon Agyemang Duah