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Ghana must develop models to solve agric challenges - Stakeholders

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi
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SOME stakeholders in the agricultural sector have advocated that Ghana develops its own model to solve challenges that confront the sector.

Specifically, they said the focus should be on innovative financing, proper targeting of inputs, extension services, and infrastructure and market accessibility, among others.

In an interview, the President of the Chamber of Agribusiness, Mr Anthony Selorm Morrison, noted that financing had always been a tough challenge to the sector.

“No country has been able to solve it totally. But what we are saying is that let’s device an innovative way by leveraging particular crops to support the others in the value chain, in order to attain our food security strategy or the zero hunger strategy,” he stated.

Difficulty in agric financing
Ghana’s agriculture is predominantly smallholder, traditional and rain-fed. Consequently, the sector is perceived as highly risky and so, funding to the sector by banks is often not attractive.

Even when they do, a bulk of the loans goes to support the importation of agriculture products, particularly poultry.

There is also the lack of market access, especially for perishable goods and poor infrastructure, to facilitate market access, which causes farmers to make losses from production, hence their inability to repay loans. 

The African Regional Programme Leader of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Dr Ade Freeman, at a stakeholders’ engagement on agric financing in March this year said Ghana needed about $40 million to fill the financial gap in the agricultural sector.

He said there was a deficit in the sector and until that amount was amassed the sector would continue to lag behind.

The stakeholders' engagement was organised by the FAO in collaboration with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA).

Other constraints  
The National Women’s Leader of the Farmers Organisation Network in Ghana (FONG), Ms Lydia Sassu, said women farmers, especially those involved in rice farming, needed simple inputs such as crushers, good storage facilities and access to credit to make it in agric.

She said they also needed machine for . They spend so much time to clear the land and plough to prepare it for planting.

“They should try and make the machines available to them especially now that government is determined to halt the importation of rice and to become self-sufficient.”
“The rural women are ready as they normally do the rice farming while the men go into cash crop production,” she said.

Mr Morrison corroborated that the rice glut was a peculiar situation that had to do with logistical challenges.

Harvesters
“They lack harvesters to harvest on time and infrastructure such as warehouses. Some of the rice imported into Ghana was produced about five years ago, so, we should not be in a hurry to sell our crops once we harvest,” he said.

Ms Sassu said due to limited access to credit they are unable to increase productivity.

“Without access to credit at low interest rates we are unable to invest in future production and diversify into producing new crops,” she said.

Market availability is also a constraint to farmers such that the difficulty in accessing market information has resulted in weak bargaining power which forces them to use intermediaries to market their products, which leads to cheating and distortion in prices.

The issue of post-harvest loss (PHL) is an old-age challenge to the agriculture sector in Ghana that threatens food and nutrition security.

It simply refers to food that is available for human consumption that goes unconsumed.

The PHL can occur throughout the value chain; from the time of harvest through processing, marketing, preparation, and finally consumption.

Agric experts attribute the causes of PHL to poor harvesting methods, poor handling procedures, poor drying techniques and lack of storage facilities. Other causes include lack of marketing and distributing policies, lack of good road infrastructure and inadequate extension service delivery.

Recommendation
The leader of FONG, Madam Sassu, said farmers in the country must be given the requisite attention and support to enable them to be able to produce enough food to meet local demand and for export.

The General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) of the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC) has often maintained that agriculture is the mainstay of the country, thus supporting livelihoods of many families, guaranteeing food security, reducing poverty in rural areas and promoting growth and national development.

Consequently, smallholders needed to improve their incomes and competitiveness if they are to achieve and sustain a decent standard of living and reinvest in their farms.