Agric sector growth still on decline despite PFJ success

Despite the many achievements under the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme, the agriculture sector’s growth has been on a continuous decline for the past six months.

The quarterly GDP figures released by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) show that the agriculture sector’s growth has dipped ever since it increased to 5.5 percent in the third quarter of 2018 from 4.8 percent in the previous one. Growth declined to 4.4 percent in the last quarter of 2018, and has dropped further by 50 percent to 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019.

This comes as rather surprising, since it is reported by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture that food production has significantly shot up and Ghana has now resumed the export of maize to three neighbouring countries – Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Togo – due to the PFJ programme’s success.

Argument may also be made that the focus should be centred on the crops sector, where the PFJ programme’s impact will be truly reflected. These arguments notwithstanding, the data show that growth in the crops and cocoa sector together has declined from 6.8 percent to 2.4 percent within the last three quarters.

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This indicates that the PFJ programme’s success has, to some extent, not been able to turn around the agriculture sector’s fortunes as envisaged.

Commenting on the sector’s declining growth, Agriculture Economist at the University of Ghana, Dr. Irene Egyir, said growth can only get to appreciable levels if farmers are assisted to introduce technology in their farming methods – and if the private sector responds to the call to invest heavily in agriculture.

“We are still doing ecological agriculture rather than technological. So, if we are still doing ecological and the climate is changing, then the state will have to do a lot so that people who are practicing agriculture will do what we call climate smart agriculture – which will not fell a lot of trees so that the rain cycle can be maintained.

“If we cannot do it this way, then we have to do adaptation—which means we have to visit technology. We have to decide whether we will do organic or conventional. So, either you expand land by felling more trees, or you do agriculture on small land and use technology such as improved seed which is high yielding and high quality; use fertilisers which may be organic or inorganic; and use pesticides. But if we keep doing what we are doing now, then we may not achieve the growth rate we want,” she told B&FT in an interview.

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She added: “Private sector response is also very necessary. Government is not able to do all, so it is the private sector that can invest and not the peasant farmers. So, what we are looking for is private investors who will respond to the enabling environment government has created. With seeds and fertiliser, government has done that – but now we need somebody who will invest in other things like tractors, power tillers, among others”.

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