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Opinions of Saturday, 5 November 2016

Columnist: Samuel Adefioye

Promoting economic growth through agriculture

By Samuel Adefioye

Agriculture, one of the largest and most significant industries in the world, is important not only for a country's balance of trade, but the security and health of its population.

Almost every country wants to optimise its agricultural sector to enhance productivity and transform its economy but it appears Ghana’s efforts have not gone far enough. Lack of passionate personal interest and commitment in supporting the cause has contributed hugely to this unfortunate situation.

For instance, it is stated in the Medium-term National Development Policy framework under the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) II, 2014-2017 that “Agriculture will be transformed from subsistence to a business-oriented activity”. Although 2017 is fast approaching, this well-thought out policy, so far, can best be described as a mere fantasy as it is yet to see any serious actualisation.

It is generally accepted that factors including over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture, limited access to extension services, weak management along the value chain, low level of agriculture mechanisation and constraints to agricultural technology adoption are the major setbacks to the agriculture sector in Ghana.

It would therefore stand to reason that most agricultural development plans in Ghana today focus on improving access to water and encouraging the use of inputs, like fertilizer. Indeed, almost all political parties in the country have a variety of policies aimed at increasing agricultural productivity in Ghana.

The unfortunate situation, however, is that there is no clear-cut policy on how to achieve maximum benefit from the sector. We lack a comprehensive plan that will add value to our agricultural raw materials and integrate Ghana into world agricultural markets.

In light of this, assuming we provide farming communities and farmers with irrigation facilities, high-yield seeds, fertilizers, credit facilities, etc., there will be a massive increase in agricultural productivity such that we can hardly find a place where the increased production will go. If we fail to pay the needed attention to the demand side of agriculture, even if there is increased production, that increase will ultimately fail to produce the much needed economic gain.

In order to forestall such a catastrophe, guaranteed markets must be provided to complement supply measures so that once enough produce is stored for domestic consumption, the surplus may be commercially processed and sold to domestic urban markets or exported to regional and international markets.

Value addition to our agricultural raw materials must be our topmost priority as it can spark off a chain of economic activities that will create direct and indirect jobs and also generate the needed revenue for developmental projects.

It is imperative to revive Ghana’s agriculture as about sixty percent of the population depends on it. If we are able to transform the face of agriculture in the country, we will not only be creating greater economic growth but also becoming self-sufficient.

However, until reforms in production go on, pari passu, with marketing reforms, we cannot turn around the economic fortunes of Ghana through agriculture.