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Business News of Monday, 13 September 2021


11th pre-harvest set to improve market channels for agri-foods beyond the pandemic

The agricultural sector is gradually becoming a mechanized sector in the economy The agricultural sector is gradually becoming a mechanized sector in the economy

Ghana’s agricultural sector employs close to sixty percent of the country’s population. The sector, which is gradually expanding and taking shape, is also becoming a mechanized sub-sector of the national economy.

Many stakeholders have reiterated the need for more public and private partnerships, which they argue is the way to build a vibrant and sustainable agricultural sector that employs both men and women equally – and is dynamic and innovative enough to attract young people into its fold.

The need for partnerships and collaborations, therefore, cannot be underestimated. Partnerships and support systems enhance farmers’ access to mentorships, practical trainings, financial packages, incentives and inputs supply, up-skilled extension services and improved and relevant agricultural technologies, among others.

Over the years, Agrihouse Foundation as part of its core mandate has been working in the areas of projects, promotions, advocacy, mentorship, branding, exhibitions and capacity-building; pulling together resources and designing interventional events that help improve the capacity of many Ghanaian agri-men and women, as well as scaling-up their initiatives.

In line with partnerships and sponsorships, year after year organizations including the Agricultural Development Bank, YARA, OCP Africa, Ecobank, ABSA Ghana among others, continue to lend tremendous financial and technical support to Agrihouse Foundation by aligning with the various interventional projects the organization facilitates.

These projects include the Livestock Poultry & Fisheries Trade Show (LiPF); the International Farmers and Agribusiness Resilience and Sustainability Convention (INTAFAC); the Agricultural students’ Career Guidance & Mentorship Dialogue Bootcamp (AG-STUD); Annual Pre-harvest Agribusiness, Conference and Exhibitions; the Women in Food and Agricultural Leadership Forum (WOFAGRIC) and Gold in the Soil Awards; Agri-Woman Marketplace; 1 Household, 1 Garden Initiative (1H,1G); Annual Pre-Harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions; and the AgriWatchgh News Portal & Agriwatch News App.

Corporate Support for 11th Pre-Harvest Slated for October

For the past four years, the Pre-Harvest Agribusiness Conference and Exhibitions – which was the only project handed down to Agrihouse Foundation by USAID in 2018, has been thriving and chalking up immense socio-economic impacts in the country’s agricultural space.

The event has existed for eleven years and has become one of the leading and highly impactful interventional market linkage events on the Ghanaian Agribusiness calendar, providing long-term market development opportunities for farmers and agribusinesses. The award-winning market-linkage platform promotes business partnerships among value chain actors; especially farmers, buyers, processors, government, development partners, transporters, input dealers, civil society, equipment dealers, financial institutions, telecom companies and policymakers.

These successes continue to encourage both local and international corporations to align with the annual event. This year, organizations including Agricultural Development Bank, YARA, OCP AFRICA, United Fertilisers Company Limited have already come on board as sponsors and partners of the 3-days event, scheduled to take place from Tuesday, 19th to Thursday, 21 October at the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium at Tamale in the Northern Region.

Focusing on the theme ‘Working Together to Improve Market Channels for Agri-foods Beyond the Pandemic’, the three (3) days leading Agribusiness market linkage conference and exhibitions will feature keys sessions like: Training and Capacity session; Commodity Breakout sessions; Exhibitions; and Farmer-buyer Matchmaking Dialogues. The event, in cognizance of the times, will also highlight challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified within the sector, and the effects it has posed to marketing Agri-foods while exploring existing market channels to address these challenges.

Exploring the theme: Improving Market Channels for Agri-foods Beyond the Pandemic

The participation of smallholder farmers in agricultural marketing, in both traditional and modern markets such as groceries and supermarkets, offers another opportunity for improving farm families’ livelihoods. However, enhancing smallholder farmer participation in agricultural markets depends on the availability and access to a number of planned resources – including rural infrastructure, financial assistance, and access to reliable market information (IFAD, 2014).

However, across Ghana, many smallholder farmers face multiple barriers in the marketing of their farm produce. Study results show that the majority (93%) of farmers in the districts were constrained in diverse ways in the marketing of their farm produce. Key among the constraints faced by farmers in the locality was the influence of intermediaries in price determination or setting.

Another challenge facing farmers in the marketing of their farm produce is the poor road and transportation facilities. In many rural areas with poor roads, transport owners are reluctant to use their vehicles due to potential damage and shortened lifespan – thereby depriving farmers’ access to transport facilities. Shepherd (2007) cites the poor nature of many farm roads, as well as link roads, as a disincentive for transport operators and farmers, discouraging transport operators from traveling such farm roads.

The farmers also had to contend with difficult buyers of their produce. This is a major problem, particularly in communities where farmers set their own prices and when there is a bumper harvest. Middlemen often refuse to buy farmers’ produce when there is a bumper harvest. In addition, during rainy seasons when the poor roads get worse and virtually impassable for many vehicles, getting buyers for farm produce becomes extremely difficult.

In some cases, farmers have to ‘head-port’ their farm produce to the market or buyers, contrary to when the produce is in short supply or when the roads are good. Some intermediaries use these periods of bumper harvest or poor roads due to rains not only to cheat farmers but also to bait them as their customers; so that even when prices rise, they still might sell to them at low prices.

Post-harvest losses are a common phenomenon in the districts, particularly for farmers growing cassava. A large percentage of their produce gets rotten in the field – largely due to the lack of processing facilities or processing skills, storage facilities or transport.

Highlights and Recommendations

Improving the agricultural marketing environment of smallholder farmers requires close linkages between the farmers and other value-chain actors to coordinate supply and demand. The absence of guaranteed markets for smallholder farmers, as currently persists in many emerging economies, imposes multiple marketing challenges on the managers of small-land production systems. Smallholder farmers still suffer from the opportunistic behavior of intermediaries who collude in setting prices of farm produce. The lack of transportation and buyers are other challenges confronting smallholders.

Although some farmers are beginning to form farmer-marketing associations or devise rewarding marketing strategies, the proportion of farmers involved is too low; and the sustainability of this market development by smallholders raises a number of issues. Drivers such as access to market information, the financial condition of the farmer, geographical location and transportation facilities are key to ensuring sustained and improved market access for stallholders, as these influence the marketing strategies employed by farmers.

To improve the agricultural marketing environment for greater smallholder benefit, institutions such as cooperatives, farmer organizations and contract farming can serve as important means of linking producers with markets for the sale of farm produce, as well as for the acquisition of a credit, inputs, technology, information and services.

The government also needs to step in by providing trading standards such as weights and measures, and market information to smallholders. Although the government has a key mandate in the provision of rural public goods such as roads and other transport or storage facilities, it should be more proactive and open for public-private partnerships in the provision of rural infrastructure.

Agricultural input companies also have a role to play in enhancing the agricultural marketing of smallholders, since the success of such farms depends on raising farm productivity and sustainable smallholder production. Therefore, agro-input companies should collaborate with public sector institutions in the provision of rural infrastructure. In addition, the small volume of output from scattered individual producers predisposes smallholders to weak bargaining positions in the market.

Extension agents and smallholder development practitioners should support the formation of farmer marketing associations. Price uncertainty could also be minimized if such farmer associations are empowered to access guaranteed markets for their produce. In communities where farmer-marketing associations exist or meet to set prices, these have been spontaneous and mainly informal in nature.

Hence, public-sector agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other development agencies initiating and supporting market-linkage arrangements between producers and buyers, and various service providers should help enhance the capacity of these existing informal or spontaneous groups in formal market setting and contracts.

Provision of cargo vehicles, as well as storage or processing facilities by private as well as government entities, is also essential for overcoming limited demand in village and district markets and expanding sales to more distant urban markets – where demand is relatively high and consumers are prepared to pay more for improved quality and variety of produce.

Impacts of Pre-Harvest over the Years

The Pre-Harvest event, over the past (10) years, has created and connected through exhibitions companies that are into fertilizer, seeds, irrigation, machinery and equipment, Finance, Transportation, ICT, Processors, Packagers, Marketers, Government Institutions, Development Partners, among others. Over 90% of companies and participants have been linked to markets through the Exhibitions.

Pre-Harvest has become a leading event on the Ghanaian agricultural calendar and has served as a stimulating platform for training and for creating increased stakeholder linkages, exhibitions and expanded opportunities. It operates from a facilitative dimension by presenting a highly engaging and coordinated platform that ensures smallholder farmers are connected to markets, finance, inputs, equipment and information.

These activities, according to organizers, of the event are geared toward capturing the marketing challenges faced by the actors, especially in the pandemic, and how other modernized marketing platforms can serve as a solution to maximize the output of actors along the value chain. Farmers, actors along the value chain and participants will be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to observe Good Agricultural Practices.

In 2020 (the 10th edition), the event recorded 3,122 participants; and one hundred and twenty-two (122) companies registered and participated in the Exhibitions. Furthermore, previous experience showed that the pre-harvest program has led to the development of business deals for farmers.

Reports on the 2019 event showed that about 70 business deals were made during the Exhibition. More than GH¢232, 420, 745 of agri products and equipment were sold and bought. The event has improved the livelihoods of players along the value chain by boosting their confidence – i.e. created a stimulus platform for collaborating with other actors for business deals/increased stakeholders’ linkages.

It has given agro-processors a strong drive to access their raw materials locally, agribusiness development, grown the local economy through the expansion of agribusiness opportunities, and has become a platform of growth for agribusiness entrepreneurs. The event will remain one of the leading events in the country where farmers, businesses, government and ideas meet to network, build capacity, learn and explore business opportunities, sign deals and close contracts.

In 2018, the event won the Agribusiness Event of the Year for helping to promotes business partnerships among value chain actors – especially farmers, buyers, processors, transporters, input dealers, equipment dealers, financial institutions, telecom companies and policymakers. Over the years, through continuous improvement, it has accelerated the transformation of agribusiness in Northern Ghana, alongside government initiatives.

“Even as the country is opening up amid the COVID-19 pandemic and from current trends and the ongoing registration process, we are positive a good number of companies will sign up to showcase their products and services. This year’s 11th Pre-Harvest event will not come short in playing its role of facilitating farmers and agro-processors to access opportunities for expanding their growth potentials and building new partnerships. We have a strong team with the capacity to ensure that,” Ms. Alberta Nana Akyaa Akosa has assured stakeholders and the public.

Why You Should Participate in Pre-Harvest

The annual event ensures that participants obtain knowledge of new structured and sustainable ways of marketing products and services. Participants are able to meet, interact and sign business deals with over 1,000 farmers or actors that suit their business while exhibiting their product or services to a wider audience from all the sectors of agribusiness.

Furthermore, the event creates opportunities for participants to interact with over 100 exhibitors to strike business deals of interest; become updated on national policies and opportunities for all agricultural actors and what holds for the future. Participants also get the opportunity to be in open informal sessions that allow them to interact with other farmers and agri-processors, to network and engage with speakers or panelists – just an informal interactive discussion.

Participants get the opportunity to interact and hear from agri-experts who provide solutions to challenges and voice opportunities in the sector. They partake in interactive keynote sessions designed to highlight issues, progress and development happening in the agricultural sector.

Even more, participants obtain practical and realistic experiences through real-life case studies, while the field demonstrations also help participants to understand and appreciate modern and effective technologies for agricultural productivity.

The event also creates a platform for participants to meet key decision-makers to network and dialogue; and obtain self-empowerment lectures that can motivate them to continue growing their agribusinesses and improve their livelihoods.