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Technology and scientific advances critical to boost agric in West Africa

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi
 The United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Mr Stephen Censky (right), and the US Ambassador to Ghana, Ms Stephanie S. Sullivan, during the press conference.
The United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Mr Stephen Censky (right), and the US Ambassador to Ghana, Ms Stephanie S. Sullivan, during the press conference.

THE United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Mr Stephen Censky, has said that Ghana and other countries in the West Africa sub-region must ensure they have the right climate to welcome new technologies and scientific advances for the advancement of agriculture.

He said such scientific advancement in relation to nutrition, seeds and crops, among others, was important to the development of agriculture.

“If West African nations work to develop their agriculture systems, part of that is going to be through the development and use of new technology.

“How can we increase production on a proactive basis? That comes through using new technologies, new seeds, improved livestock genetics and it involves new management techniques and technologies,” he said at a press conference in Accra to wrap up his visit to Ghana where he led a trade mission to West Africa from October 28 to 31, 2019.

He noted that investments were being made in the above areas, though not as quick as people would like to see.

The trade mission was to help the US exporters explore new opportunities in a region where string economic growth was driving demand for imported food and farm products.   

Mr Censky said agricultural development and increased domestic production, as well as imports, could be complementary but not the enemy of each other.

He said the US was not only interested in exports but also interested in helping to ensure that Ghana’s agriculture would succeed.

“The US imports a lot of food ourselves and I don’t think trade is not the zero-sum game. One can still import food and still be very successful,” he said.

He cited the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) programme, ‘Food for Progress’ that had over the last four years invested over US$50 million in support of the domestic poultry industry in Ghana to increase production, feed milling, nutrition, technology as well promotion of eggs and the final product.

“It has been a success. We have seen US and Ghanaian poultry production increasing,” he said. 

Mr Censky said the USDA was working to sell the bounty of American agriculture.

“West Africa is a bright spot with a growing middle class that are hungry for our delicious and wholesome agriculture products. Through this trade mission and other efforts, the USDA is proud to support President Donald Trump’s Prosper Africa Initiative (PAI), which is seeking to boost two-way trade and investment between the US and Africa,” he said.

He added that the PAI brought together the full range of US government resources to connect US and African businesses with new buyers, suppliers, and investment opportunities.

The US Ambassador to Ghana, Ms Stephanie S. Sullivan, said the robust agribusiness trade mission was a manifestation of the vibrant and growing partnership between Ghana and the US.

She said the trade week focused on the trade and investment development aspect, as the two talked about the journey to self-reliance.

“The US remains the largest bilateral development partner of Ghana and we see the business to business relationship as important to the overall bilateral relationship,” she said.

She added that through the USDA, there was a range of capacity development programmes, transfer of technology and ways to create broader markets and connect the two countries, and West Africa, ultimately, going forward.
Highlights of the visit
The trade mission was based in Accra, Ghana, and included buyer delegations from Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal.

During the visit, Mr Censky met with government officials, private sector representatives, members of business associations and academic institutions.

Agricultural trade between Ghana and the US in ???2019??? was around US$300 million and overall agriculture and food imports is around US$10 billion annually.