Improved inputs and irrigation methods boost Ghana's agricultural output


The Ghanaian agriculture sector experienced consistent growth between 2014 and 2018. According to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), agriculture grew by 5.5% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2018, outpacing general non-oil GDP growth the same year. Budget figures show agriculture grew by 6.1% in 2017, more than double the 2.9% in 2016, on the back of significant yield increases and the sector is expected to increase by 7.1% on average through to 2022. In each of the first three quarters of 2018 agriculture improved quarter-on-quarter by more than 1%, according to the GSS. In the third quarter of 2018 the sector had an added value of a provisional GHS7.4bn ($1.6bn) and GHS21.9bn ($4.7bn) for the first nine months of the year.

Data from the GSS indicates that agriculture’s contribution to the economy has declined from 31.8% in 2009 to 18.3% in 2017. The sector contributed a total of GHS35bn ($7.6bn), or 18.3%, to the nation’s GDP in 2017, a decrease of 18.9% from the previous year. While some of this decline can be attributed to growth in other sectors, notably oil, other factors that are specific to the agricultural sector – such as challenges coordinating private and public sector activities, high post-harvest losses, limited use of modern farming methods and workforce constraints – have slowed growth.

A key policy focus area for the administration of President Nana Akufo-Addo is modernising the country’s agriculture sector through the flagship Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme launched in April 2017, which seeks to increase the availability and the quality of food in the country, improve efficiency in agricultural production and agro-processing, create an environment conducive to private sector investment and participation, and provide jobs for the country’s unemployed youth (see analysis). Speaking in February 2018 the Minister for Food and Agriculture Owusu Afriyie Akoto said that in its first year the programme generated a total crop value of GHS1.2bn ($259.3m) and created 745,000 jobs in the mainly rural economy. Overall, the agriculture sector employs approximately onethird of Ghana’s workforce.


Domestic crop production in Ghana generally increased in 2017, largely due to larger land area under cultivation and interventions by the government through the PFJ, which in its first year focused in particular on the production of maize and soybeans. Ghanaian agriculture is heavily dependent on natural rainfall. Across the country, more rain fell in 2017 than did in 2016 but in certain regions the timing of the rains negatively impacted crop yields, as was the case particularly for maize, sorghum, rice and ground nuts. The rain negatively impacted crop yields because the rains stopped too early in the development stage of the crops that were planted later in the season.

Major Staples

In 2017, the output of all major staples – maize, rice, millet, sorghum, cassava, yams and soybeans – increased. According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) annual maize output increased by 15.3% from 1.7m tonnes in 2016 to 2m tonnes in 2017, rice was up 4.9% from 687,680 tonnes to 721,610 tonnes, millet improved some 3.6% from 159,370 tonnes to 164,680 tonnes, cassava 7.5% from 17.2m tonnes to 19.1m tonnes, yams 10.9% from 7.4m tonnes to 8.3m tonnes and soybean output by 19% from 143,200 tonnes in 2016 to 170,500 tonnes in 2017. The largest increase for staple crops was in sorghum output, which grew 20.9% from 229,610 tonnes in 2016 to 277,540 tonnes the following year.


Ghana is the world’s second-largest cocoa producer after Côte d’Ivoire and cocoa is a key cash crop for the country, accounting for about one-quarter, or $2bn, of its annual export revenues. The MoFA reported that during the 2016/17 farming season, 969,500 tonnes of cocoa were produced across Ghana, an improvement of 24.6% from the 2015/16 output of 778,000 tonnes. The increase in cocoa output was largely attributed to the introduction of government-funded agricultural interventions including a nationwide cocoa spraying and fertilisation campaign. Farmers also benefitted from training in an improved hand-pollination technique and better agricultural extension services. Ghana has set steadily increasing targets for domestic cocoa production despite oversupply on the world market, with a production target of 900,000 tonnes for the 2018/19 season, up from the 850,000 target for 2017/18, in line with the overall goal of enhancing productivity in the sector.

The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), a government-controlled body that fixes the buying price of and purchases domestically produced cocoa beans, announced in October 2018 that it would maintain the producer price of cocoa at GHS7600 ($1640) per tonne in the 2018/19 cocoa season despite an international supply glut. The International Cocoa Organisation forecast in February 2018 a worldwide cocoa bean surplus of 105,000 tonnes for the 2017/18 season, driving down prices for the commodity on the international market. COCOBOD’s announcement opened a price gap between Ghana and neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire, which together produce around 60% of the world’s supply and are looking to eventually create something similar to a cartel in order to gain leverage over the market. Ghana’s neighbour had lowered prices and Ghana’s move increased the risk of cross-border smuggling, as happened in February 2017 when industry observers estimated between 100,000 and 120,000 tonnes of beans were smuggled into Ghana after Côte d’ Ivoire lowered its cocoa price.

The vast majority of cocoa production within Ghana is carried out by smallholder farmers, who sell their produce to a network of licensed buying companies (LBCs) that operate through agents. The LBCs then sell their cocoa beans to COCOBOD, which trade the cocoa beans on the international market. Nearly three-quarters of the cocoa that is produced in Ghana is exported.

Poultry & Livestock

Livestock offers individuals prospects for income enhancement, protection against crop failure, financial security and improvement in rural livelihoods. The majority of Ghana’s livestock population is in rural areas with key animals being cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Livestock production between 2016 and 2017 grew for all animals, with the number of goats increasing the most, by 6.1%, and cows the least, by 4.7%.

The MoFA is working to introduce improved breeds to farmers to increase productivity of their stocks. The ministry produced a livestock housing manual to facilitate effective livestock extension service delivery and the adoption of livestock production techniques, distributing 4500 manuals and 3000 flyers to stakeholders in the sector. To measure productivity, the ministry monitors six livestock-breeding stations across the country that are responsible for producing specific breeds of livestock that have higher productivity than breeds more common in Ghana. In 2017 the six livestock-breeding programmes collectively had 847 births across all species, 64.7% below the set target of 1349 births.

The most widely consumed poultry product in Ghana is chicken, and the poultry sector has room to grow in the next few years as consumption is rising by around 6% a year. Despite the promising market, local poultry production is in decline and struggling to meet demand. Poultry production was 75.4m in 2017, only a 2% change from 73.9m in 2016. Ghana imported 158,000 tonnes of chicken in 2017, compared to 35,000 tonnes locally produced broiler meat. The reliance on imported chicken has been attributed to the high cost of poultry feed, inadequate processing and preferences for imported chicken among more affluent customers.

Fruits & Vegetables

Fruit and vegetable production form a small component of the Ghanaian agriculture sector. Data from the World Food Programme indicates that in 2015, 100,000 ha of fruits and vegetables were under cultivation across Ghana, with half of this used to grow tomatoes. Some fruits are produced largely for export, notably pineapples, mangos, paw paws and bananas, collectively non-traditional fruits. The Ghana Export Promotion Authority reported that total exports of non-traditional fruits in 2016 were 138,263 tonnes increasing to 152,572 tonnes in 2017.


The GSS reported that fish production contributed 1.2% of national GDP in 2017, a modest increase from the 2016 figure of 1.1%. The majority of fish in the country is caught by small-scale artisanal fishermen who rely on freshwater and marine fishing for subsistence purposes. Production by artisanal, commercial and tuna fish farmers fell between 2016 and 2017 due to unfavourable climate conditions and unsustainable methods of fishing that ended up leading to reduced fish stocks. Industrial fisheries were the only subsector to see an increase in production, from 24,500 tonnes in 2016 to 26,200 tonnes the following year.


Ghana’s 2019 budget prioritised modernising the agricultural sector and value-added services to boost productivity and output, increase incomes, improve food self-sufficiency and exports, and create a viable supply base for agro-industry. The spending package set aside GHS967.8m ($209.1m) for the MoFA, a 62% increase from the 2016 budget, which included GHS599m ($129.4m) designated for the ministry. Included in the funding is an extended version of the PFJ programme and a livestock version of it, called Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ), which is aimed at increasing the production of selected livestock. Also funded are the establishment of two facilities worth $216m for the importation of farm machinery and equipment, the construction of 30 new warehouses to augment the country’s storage capacity and the creation of cattle ranches in select locations to address conflict between herdsmen and food-crop farmers.

Planting for Food & Jobs

The GHS3.3bn ($713.1m) PFJ is Ghana’s flagship agriculture development programme and has five pillars: seed access and development; fertiliser access and systems development; agriculture extension services; and market and e-agriculture. The bulk of the programme’s funding, or GHS1.8bn ($389m), is earmarked for fertiliser access and systems development to increase the use of fertiliser by farmers. The government primarily works with private manufacturers and importers of fertiliser products, connects them to farmers, and supports the timely distribution and transportation of fertiliser at a subsidised cost to the farmer. The second-largest cost driver of the programme is seed access and development, which was allocated GHS908m ($196.2m). Under this pillar, the programme pushes for the production of higher-quality seed for key crops including maize and soybeans, and works with certified seed producers and agro-dealers to distribute seed. Agriculture extension and marketing are aimed at giving farmers better access to the market, a move compounded by the recent creation of the Ghana Commodity Exchange, a trading platform for farmers.

Implemented in 2017 and set to conclude in 2020, the programme to date has been largely successful, contributing directly to the production of an additional GHS1.2bn ($259.3m) in crops, including a doubling of maize and soybean output, as well as the creation of 745,000 jobs. An additional 162,000 tonnes of fertiliser supplies were used in the first year of the programme, bringing the fertilised area to around 357,000 ha in the 2017 planting season.

An extension of the programme, the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD), will be launched in 2019. The scheme aims to promote selected tree crops including coconut, cashews, coffee, rubber, mango and oil palm to diversify from the country’s dominant cocoa crop. It will provide seedlings free of charge to farmers in 142 districts in all 10 regions. In 2019 the government will also launch RFJ, the livestock counterpart to PFJ, in order to increase livestock production and reduce the reliance on imported meat.

Green Climate Fund

Important to the government’s efforts to support the agricultural sector are efforts to combat climate change. According to the UNDP, Ghana is particularly vulnerable to climate change-associated issues such as health problems, disruption of agricultural systems, flooding and reduced levels of precipitation. Recognising the risk, in December 2015 Ghana signed the Paris Agreement, a legally binding agreement that strengthens the global response to the threat of climate change by limiting global warming well below the 2°C threshold, under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

With this end in mind, in February 2018 the state concluded the first phase of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Readiness Programme, a $988,000 two-year undertaking funded by the government of Germany and implemented by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation. The programme is designed to help Ghana in the implementation of the necessary changes required to meet its commitment to the Paris Agreement. It aims to boost institutional and fiduciary capacity to enable national institutions to access the GCF; enhance national coordination to manage and deliver climate finance; develop a system for identifying, prioritising, and developing bankable climate change projects; and leverage private sector resources to scale up green solutions through both market-based and inclusive value-chain business models.

Boosting Productivity

In December 2017 Ghana received a concessionary loan of $39m from the African Development Bank to finance the Savannah Zone Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP), a five-year plan that was implemented between January 2018 and December 2022, and which aims to transform agriculture value chains in the country in order to improve food and nutrition security, generate jobs and increase incomes for people working in agriculture.

The programme benefits 50,000 smallholder farmers and indirectly impacts 250,000 individuals living in Ghana’s savannah. Primarily implemented by the MoFA, the programme has three main components: crop productivity improvement, agri-business development and infrastructure upgrades. Under the crop productivity component, the government will support the development of more efficient systems to produce, store and distribute better quality seed stock for rice, maize and soybeans. In terms of developing agri-business, SAPIP will support the establishment of innovation platforms that link different actors in the agricultural value chain with the ultimate objective of attracting more private capital into agri-business and agro-processing. Finally, the infrastructure component of SAPIP will upgrade irrigation systems, warehouses and road networks.

One District, One Factory

Launched in August 2017, the One District, One Factory (1D1F) initiative aims to promote industrialisation and create higher paying jobs by establishing at least one factory or enterprise in each of the 216 districts. An important part of this is agriculture-related, value-added services such as agro-processing.

In July 2018, 10 Ghanaian banks committed $915m towards funding 1D1F projects. The first factory to be commissioned under the 1D1F policy was the Ekumfi Fruits and Juices Company in the Central Region, a facility that upon completion will have the capacity to process 25,600 tonnes of fruit annually, producing a range of juice and fruit products. The facility will directly employ 250 people and is expected to come on-line in early 2019.

Research & Innovation

According to the World Food Programme in its July 2017 “Ghana Zero Hunger Strategic Review”, approximately 40% of the food produced in Ghana is lost post-harvest during processing or through wastage before they even reach the market. The report added that food loss can be reduced by investing in modern food-processing and storage facilities across the country.

Efforts are under way to innovate crop production and harvest methods to reduce post-harvest loss and waste. These include the Cashew Development Plan, which was launched in February 2018 to improve cashew production, processing and marketing. Additionally, an online platform connecting women and young people employed within the agriculture sector was launched in May 2018 to connect farmers with potential investors and provide them with access to the best practices.


The Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA) is an agency that operates within the MoFA and is tasked with promoting and marketing irrigation use across the country (see analysis). It has already chalked up some successes, with the area under formal irrigation increasing 9% between 2016 and 2017, mostly from flood recession schemes developed in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions. During 2017 and 2018 GIDA collaborated with the private sector and other government agencies with a view to increasing the area under formal and informal irrigation.

Formal irrigation is largely used in commercial farming. Informal irrigation is less capital intensive, and can be practised with limited infrastructure in place, and easily deployed by small-scale farmers with limited farmland and financial resources. At the end of 2017 GIDA reported that there were 222,000 ha under irrigation, of which 189,000 ha were under informal irrigation, 12,000 ha under a formal irrigation system and 21,000 ha of commercial farms under formal irrigation. A number of formal and informal irrigation projects are under way or in the pipeline in 2019. As of April 2017 there were 55 irrigation schemes under development, of which 22 were managed by GIDA.

One of the most important projects is the $25.5m Kpong Left Bank Irrigation Project in Greater Accra, which will help increase irrigable land by about 1500 ha. Work on the project, which is funded by the World Bank, began in July 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2020. It is part of a larger World Bank initiative, the $100m Ghana Commercial Agriculture Project, which aims to increase small-scale farmers’ access to land, agricultural inputs and markets.

In addition to the Kpong Left Bank Project, there are three other major irrigation projects – the Kpong Greater Accra Project, the Tono Project and the Vea Project – and six smaller projects. The minor projects are to be delivered at a cost of $5m in Sankana in the Upper West Region; Libga and Golinga in the Northern Region; Amate in the Eastern Region; Tanoso in the Brong Ahafo Region; and Kpando Torkor in the Volta Region. Together, the 10 projects are expected to increase land under irrigation by 20%.


Ghana’s agricultural output increased in 2017 and 2018, driven in large part by government policy and expenditure. Industrialisation and productivity improvement programmes are expected to expand the yields from the Ghanaian agriculture sector, as well as create jobs and encourage greater private sector participation. Ghana has secured considerable funding from multilateral lending organisations and bilateral national partners to finance its ambitious agricultural agenda over the next few years, ensuring a promising outlook for the sector.

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The Report: Ghana 2019

Agriculture chapter from The Report: Ghana 2019

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