‘Transform Agric into business’

African-farm-Sudan-food-s-008The Director General of John Deere-West Africa, Cobus Du Toit, has called for long-term planning to help transform the agriculture sector from being a lifestyle into business treasures.

In an interview with the B&FT in Accra, Du Toit noted that the agriculture sector lacks a long-term plan to remain the major contributor to the country’s economy, saying: “We have to put our feet on the ground to make sure we move farming from being a lifestyle to a business, so that our farmers can produce enough food within Ghana. What is happening is that a lot people want to go into farming after retirement.

“Farming in Ghana is still not a business, and I find that all over West Africa people don’t see it as a business and therefore don’t take the opportunities which come with. We can look after ourselves! We don’t even to spend a dime to import food into Ghana,” he added.

Over the past decades, the agriculture sector has been a major contributor to the country’s economy; but in recent times the sector’s influence has withered. The sector’s contribution to GDP has also fallen from 31.8 percent in 2009 to 21 percent in 2013.

despite the majority of working Ghanaians being employed in agriculture, most do so on a peasant basis or at the tail-end of their working life, owing a multiplicity of factors including lack of policy direction and credit. This has brought about the threat of an increasing export food bill as local food production cannot match demand.

In 2014, for instance, the country expended US$1.5billon on the importation of basic foods such as rice.

Also, agriculture’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014 stood at US$21,642million, a slight increase from the previous year’s US$19,969million. Meanwhile, industry’s contribution to GDP leaped from US$25,638million 2013 to US$30,834million in 2014, overtaking agriculture which has long been the economy’s backbone.

On what can be done, he said if the country can fix the lack of access to land, capital, seeds, fertiliser, knowledge and equipment, then “we can capitalise on the opportunities”. He added that: “As a society we think that is the poor, uneducated guy who is supposed to go into farming, and maybe that is why we are still not there yet”.

Out of the country’s total land area of 23.9 million hectares, about 57 percent is suitable for agricultural purposes. But agriculture’s contribution to GDP over the years has shown a steady reduction: from 35.4% in 2006 to 34.3% in 2007 and to 33.59% in 2008. The growth rate of the sector however does not show any clear trend. The growth rate reduced from 4.5% in 2006 to 4.3%in 2007 and increased to 5.17% in 2008.

This has allowed the industry and service sectors to assume first and second place atop sectorial contributions to GDP.

Commenting on how the sector is faring compared to others within the sub-region, Mr. Du Toit said: “Ghana is doing well, but we can do much better. We can look after ourselves if we put in the right measures to ensure that farming is seen as a business. We have everything, except that we lack long-term measures to encourage people into agric”.

John Deere is an international producer of agriculture equipment and provider of complete mechanised solutions. “So we don’t just bring equipment and leave it there. We have field teams that support our dealer networks to enable farmers increase yield on crops as well as service and training to increase the performance of this equipment,” he noted.

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