Interview: Charity Sackitey

How can the country reduce post-harvest losses and increase supply chain efficiency?

CHARITY SACKITEY: Ghana can reduce losses by providing smallholder post-harvest storage facilities close to farms to help farmers securely store their products. It is imperative to provide training to farmers in drying, pest control and basic preservation techniques. The country should encourage investments in cottage industries for small-scale agro-processing, and these businesses could be owned by smaller farm groups, with farming output becoming a source of their input. Finally, agro-processors and farms need to be encouraged to enter service-level agreements to assure farmers of ready markets for their produce.

What do you see as priorities for infrastructure investment in the upstream sector?

SACKITEY: The link between farming communities and markets is important. Easy access to transport is the key to quickly moving perishable farm produce with a short shelf life to markets, while minimising any loss in produce quality. Road infrastructure linking the farming communities to the major road networks should be a priority for the government. This will enable smooth delivery of inputs to the farms and the movement of produce to market centres and ports for export. A solid road network will at the same time provide access to schools and hospitals and improve the general well-being of the farmer. This should motivate farmers to increase output. Another priority is the provision of an appropriate rail network to transport agriculture products to towns and cities. Rehabilitation and upgrade of defunct rail lines should greatly benefit the cocoa sector in the speedy evacuation of cocoa beans from farms to takeover centres for export or sale to local processors.

Providing reliable internet and mobile phone networks is vital so that farmers can access real-time market information and interact with other stakeholders in the food supply chain. Farm extension services could be expanded via the use of mobile technology, while the extension of electricity to rural areas will promote and support agro-based industries. The sustainable development of agriculture requires the availability of an adequate water supply throughout the year, as Ghana’s farmland is mostly rain fed. The government needs to invest in irrigation facilities to ensure year-round farming activities. These facilities could range from smallholder systems, such as dams and canals, to large-scale systems. Illegal mining is taking a huge toll on existing bodies of water, which are necessary for sustainable irrigation activities.

In what ways can Ghana expand both its secondary and tertiary processing activities?

SACKITEY: The first thing to address is the tough business environment for agro-processing companies with respect to macroeconomic stability, inflation and exchange rates. There are also issues related to the availability and price of utilities, taxes and regulatory bottlenecks. Second, difficult access to credit and high interest rates are negatively impacting the competitiveness of local production. Finally, both technological and knowledge-based capacity building is necessary to overcome productivity, efficiency and quality issues. This affects access and competitiveness in both domestic and international markets.

What factors affect the mid-crop harvest, and how has it performed in recent years?

SACKITEY: The 2015-16 harvest season was particularly difficult for cocoa growers in Ghana due to the extremely dry and dusty conditions of the harmattan season. The 2016-17 season has started relatively well, though. So far we have seen better rainfall during both the major and minor seasons, and it is hoped that a less-severe dry period will translate into a good start of the season and better output of cocoa overall.