Tax Junk Meals, Sweetened Drinks for Wholesome Dwelling – Prof. Lartey
Former nutrition director for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Prof. Anna Lartey, has called on the government to raise taxes on junk food and sugary drinks to promote the health of citizens.
She said the nation’s nutrition index is falling and urgent steps are needed to stop the decline. A study of the processed food revolution in Africa conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that junk food consumption was increasing in sub-Saharan countries like Nigeria and Ghana.
She made these comments at a virtual awareness workshop on the UN Food Systems Summit and National Dialogue for the Media organized by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).
She said the poor nutritional value of foods consumed by Ghanaians has resulted in stunted growth in 19 percent of children, anemia in 46 percent of women of childbearing age, obesity in 33 percent of adults, high blood pressure in 23 percent of adults and people with diabetes many adults.
She said it is costing the nation $ 55 million to fight diabetes in the form of diabetes medication and people taking vacation because of the disease, which could rise to about $ 153 million by 2045 if nothing is done to meet the nutritional needs of the Ghanaians.
“So if we can change the way we eat and eat healthily, we can tackle diet-related non-communicable diseases like diabetes and obesity and save the country a lot of money,” she added.
She said that although many Ghanaians have been encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables because they are very nutritious and healthy, many cannot afford them because they are relatively expensive.
She indicated that the government should subsidize the production of fruits and vegetables with tax revenues from junk food to make them more affordable for Ghanaians. “It doesn’t make sense if the fruits and vegetables we want people to eat more are expensive, but the junk food and sugary drinks that we want people to consume are getting cheaper and cheaper “, added her.
She said a major problem in the food system is the high rate of loss and waste of agricultural products, which is one of the reasons that fruits and vegetables are expensive because, as a result, farmers would have to raise the prices of these goods in order to break even .
She added that the transport of agricultural produce needs to be drastically improved to prevent the produce form remaining on farms for weeks and sometimes even months after harvest.
In order to prevent spoilage and waste of these agricultural products, investments must be made in researching the durability of these items.
The UN Summit on Food Systems is scheduled for December 2021. The presidents of all countries are expected to make commitments on how they would improve the food systems in their countries.
The NDPC and MoFA have therefore started to involve all actors in Ghana’s food system in order to find a solution to the challenges the system is facing, the government policy and the declaration of commitment of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to the UN food systems to inform summit.