Whether or not Ghana has enough tires this year probably will depend on the success of its agriculture.
Firestone, which took over a Czechoslovak-built tire plant in 1967 and became the country's sole tire manufacturer, operated at only half capacity in 1978.
The reason is that the foreign exchange Firestone needed to import synthetics and nylon fabricwas preempted to pay for food, oil and other items.
Ghana spent more than $50 million in 1978 for North American wheat, Pakistani rice and various imported canned goods to make up for faltering agricultural production.
At the same time, its income from cocoa exports, though totaling some $800 million, was less than expected in light of record world cocoa prices. A substantial amount of Ghanaian cocoa was reportedly smuggled into Togo where prices were higher.
Belatedly, the government that ousted former Gen. Kuto Acheampong from power last year has sharply increased the government's offering price to cocoa farmers, to stem the smuggling.
Ghana is a developing country in which the connection between agriculture and the rest of the economy is vividly apparent.
Ghana's attempts to feed itself from its own production of maize and rice ran into serious difficulties in 1976 as a result of drought. There were also charges of inadequate availability of farm machinery and mismanagement in the agricultural sector.
To curb food inflation, hoarding and smuggling, the government began importing U.S. and Canadian wheat.
When Firestone officials went to local banks to draw the foreign exchange they needed to pay for raw materials, they were told the coffers were bare.
Firestone slowed down production of tires at its plant at Bonsaso in 1978, after increasing the output from 106,000 tires in 1970 to 300,000 in 1976. "We're holding things together with paper clips," said an official.
Nevertheless, newspaper articles have blamed Firestone for the tire shortage and even demanded that the Akron-owned plant be brought under Ghanaian control.
Meanwhile, trucks and buses are up on blocks. The tire shortage could impede the harvest and the hauling of cement for construction.
Economic Planning Commissioner Joseph Abbey said in an interview that a drastic devaluation of Ghana's currency, the cedi, and a sharp increase in the price the government pays to Ghanaian cocoa farmers will help right the economy.
It is also openly acknowledged by diplomats and government officials that corruption in the awarding of import licenses under Acheampong contributed to the problem.
We're doing our best to maintain social cohesion and have taken bold steps," said Abbey. "The factories must get back to work... the real miracle is that Ghanaians are still smiling instead of killing each other in the streets.