Hohoe – The Ghanaian soybean sector is facing a potential collapse due to restrictions on soybean exportation, impacting farmers’ livelihoods and the nation’s food security. Ms. Seidu Fuseina, a student aspiring to be the first psychiatric nurse from her community in the North East Region, and her sister, Asana Seidu, are among those directly affected by this downturn. Their father, Mr. Nanmor Seidu, a soybean farmer, can no longer afford their educational expenses due to the declining demand for his produce.
According to Ghana News Agency, the low demand for soybeans has thwarted his dream of providing quality education for his daughters. This scenario reflects the broader impact of Legislative Instrument (L.I 2432), passed by the Parliament of Ghana on October 05, 2020, which restricts the export of soybeans. The regulation was initially intended to make soybeans available for poultry feed production and boost the struggling poultry industry.
The restriction has led to numerous challenges for soybean farmers across the country. Mr. Amidu Walker Kudos, a soybean farmer from Central Gonja District, has seen a drastic reduction in his cultivation area, from 120 acres in 2021 to just 18 acres in 2023. Similarly, Mr. Alhassan Abdulai from Mion District has reduced his cultivation from 200 acres to 80, leading to the layoff of 50 workers.
In May 2023, the Ghana Soybeans Farmers and Aggregators Association petitioned the government to lift the restriction, citing job and business losses for over 100,000 farmers and aggregators. The association warns that this development could threaten food security in Ghana and hinder efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger and promoting sustainable agriculture.
Soybeans, a critical source of food, protein, and vegetable oil, play a vital role in addressing malnutrition, especially in the northern sector of Ghana. The cultivation of soybeans, which is not capital intensive, has been a suitable crop for farmers in regions with high unemployment and poverty.
Investigations by GNA in farming communities revealed that the price of soybeans has plummeted, leading farmers to shift to other crops like sorghum, millet, and beans. This shift could lead to reduced productivity in major cereal crops, potentially draining the national food basket.
Mr. Issah Abdul-Hakeem, Director of Administration at the Ghana Soybeans Farmers and Aggregators Association, criticized the restriction, noting that local processors mandated to buy the produce offer low prices and lack the capacity to purchase all the available soybeans. He argued that the restriction violates the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
The country’s annual soybean production potential is about 700,000 metric tonnes, but only 26 percent of this potential is currently met. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture reported a steady increase in soybean production until the restriction was implemented.
Experts like Mr. Raymond Enye, Project Specialist at Agrisolve, advocate for lifting the ban to strengthen farmers’ resilience, especially smallholder farmers. The government is urged to prioritize repealing or suspending the restrictions, invest in the soybean sector, and collaborate with NGOs to establish local factories that would create employment opportunities and encourage soybean farming.