Despite the fact that close to 70% of Ghana’s land area is used for farming, the country remains a net importer of agricultural products, including basic commodities, such as rice and wheat. In 2015 the US Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) estimated that only around half of all cereal and meat consumed is produced locally. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the minister of food and agriculture, told international media in June 2017 that the country’s food imports totalled $2.2bn in 2015, up from $344m in 2007.
In addition to promoting exports of cash crops such as cocoa, the government is focusing boosting production for the domestic market in order to decrease reliance on food imports.
Planting For Food & Jobs
Launched by the administration of President Nana Akufo-Addo in April 2017, the Planting for Food and Jobs programme seeks to increase domestic food production. The initiative encourages both individuals and institutions, such as schools and hospitals, to grow cereals or vegetables in their farms or backyards. It also calls for higher level of production of domestically consumed staples: maize output is targeted to rise by at least 30% and rice production by 49%. Meanwhile, the aim is to expand soybean harvests by 25%, specifically to support the domestic poultry industry. According to a 2017 FAS report, feed costs for poultry farmers represent 60-70% of overall production costs, and soybean meal, which is currently imported, is one of the primary ingredients. Therefore, higher domestic production of soybeans should lead to a notable reduction in the price of poultry.
Better Market Links
In addition to aiming for higher production levels, there is a need to develop a well-linked domestic market to get the products from farm to table, as explained in Ghana’s Shared Growth and Development Agenda for 2014-17. However, limited processing facilities, fractured transportation links and a shortage of suitable storage for produce remain the main obstacles. There is also a lack of market information available to farmers. “An ongoing challenge for domestic farmers is producing what the market demands, rather than what they are accustomed to producing,” Edem Azagloe, president of the African Youth Network for Agricultural Transformation, told OBG. “We have to look at the agriculture sector more as a business, and determine the needs of our customers.”
The Medium-Term Expenditure Framework for 2017-19 published by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) lays out specific goals to improve these value chains, including the linkage of agri-business companies with smallholder farmers and the introduction of a market promotion programme that focuses on import substitution. It also encourages supermarkets, hotels and restaurants to source produce from local smallholder farms.
According to the World Bank “Enabling the Business of Agriculture 2017” report, Ghana requires enhanced procedures for effective transport of perishable products. As laid out in the 2017 budget, the MoFA plans to construct 54 new warehouse facilities for storage, while roads are being refurbished with the aim of increasing the efficiency of transportation of agricultural commodities.
While there is still progress to be made, Ghana is building on a strong foundation. As reported by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, the country reduced extreme poverty levels from 36.5% to 18.2% between 1991 and 2006, and it has met the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger between 1990 and 2015. Planting for Food and Jobs remains a key talking point that is high on the administration’s agenda. If properly executed, the domestically focused provisions could be a step towards improved food security. These factors, combined with average rainfall, could make 2017 a particularly promising year for the agriculture sector.
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