The Ministry of Food and Agriculture says the country currently loses an average 25% of all food harvested through poor post-harvest handling.
In view of this unfortunate development, the Ghana Grains Council (GGC) is collaborating with USAID ADVANCE to assist farmers and aggregators to reduce post-harvest losses through several interventions on quality farming and proper post-harvest handling techniques.
It has been observed that such intervention will help to improve the quality of yields and their leverage to secure premium prices for their produce.
Records have also shown that about US$2billion was spent to import food into the country. These included rice, sugar, tomatoes, poultry products, wheat and others, many of which could have been produced locally.
With the threat of food insecurity looming over the country, given the lack of investment and attention that agriculture sector has suffered over the years, the private sector’s contribution is seen as key to improving the sector.
The agriculture sector at the end of 2015 was expected to record a growth rate of 0.04% against a revised growth target of 3.6%.
With a population growth rate of about 2.5% per annum, the almost 0% growth in the agriculture sector suggests that agriculture GDP per capita has declined substantially, raising serious concerns about long-term food security, employment and sustainable development.
However, despite these startling indications investment from the private sector touted as the engine of growth is thought to hold a vital stake in helping to turnaround the ailing agric sector’s fortunes.
The private sector plays a key role in agriculture, supplying needed inputs and equipment like fertiliser, seeds and tractors to enable farmers increase their yields, while financial and investment institutions allow them to take risks and expand their businesses.
Moreover, the private sector plays an important role in linking smallholder farmers to markets so they can increase their incomes.
The country has all the potentials; vast fertile lands, two harvesting seasons and a reliable rainfall pattern to grow, consume and also export much of the food it imports. The irony however is that food importation continues to rise at the expense of local production, which keeps decreasing.
Food security specialist at USAID Ghana, Samson Konlan, said USAID has a lot of experience investing in Ghana’s agriculture, and these efforts show how high returns on investment in the local agriculture sector can be.
“In the north, for example, USAID trained farmers in improved production methods and business practices, and helped them access better inputs and new markets. As a result they more than doubled their yields, and tripled incomes in some instances. This is a clear demonstration of profitable enterprises if the right conditions are provided,” he stated.
Mr. Konlan made these remarks when the USAID Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) Programme and the Ghana Grains Council jointly hosted about 300 maize and soybean value chain actors including farmers, processors and agro-input dealers at the first annual Southern Ghana Agribusiness Pre-harvest Event in Kumasi.
The event is modelled on a similar one held in Tamale annually, in which agricultural stakeholders learn and share ideas on the season’s production outlook, identify critical actions to build competitive businesses, and establish market relationships and contracts for the forthcoming maize, rice and soybean harvest.
It was held under the theme ‘Quality Sells More’, and also included a conference, an exhibition, and a marketplace where participants had the chance to network with suppliers, and buyers.
Chief of Party for the UDAID ADVANCE Programme, Dr. Emmanuel Dormon, noted that the Annual Northern Ghana Pre-harvest Forum has made significant impacts since its inception five years ago.
He further explained that participation has increased every year from 260 in 2011 to 960 in 2015, which informed them to replicate it in the south for southern value chain actors to also network and share ideas for enhancing operations of their businesses.
He said, in line with the theme, it is their expectation the event will begin a formal conversation between farmers, aggregators and food processors on the adoption of national quality standards for maize, and how grain markets can reward suppliers of premium quality grains.
The most challenging component in maintaining quality in the grain value chain is post-harvest handling, an issue that is common knowledge to many people in the industry.