Even though agriculture remains the second largest employer behind the services sector, without input subsidies going directly to farmers and the provision of cheap loans, the hope of attracting the youth to the sector would continue to be a mirage, Thomas James, Director, Trade Fairs and Business Promotion at WegVoraus, an agric-focused event organising company, has said.
“What I understand is that the interest rate here is above 30 percent; this is just too huge for the farmer. In India, it is less than 10 percent and even with that the government still subsidises agro inputs,” he said.
Mr. James was speaking at the launch of Agritech West Africa 2020, a conference focused on promoting the use of technology in agriculture, where he explained that the provision of cheap and direct loans and subsidy to farmers, processors, agritechnologies, could encourage educated youth to take to the sector.
He also advocated the provision of support for people who want to invest in agric-related technology and food processing, as doing so will position the country to use modern technology to drive production and value addition.
While agriculture is an important contributor to Ghana’s export earnings, and a major source of inputs for the manufacturing sector, it remains largely unattractive to young people. Despite being the second largest employer behind the services sector, many of the country’s educated but unemployed youth, prefer to wait for not-existent jobs in other sectors, than go into agriculture.
This, according to many experts, is due to the lack of mechanisation of the sector and absence of credit at reasonable rates to players in the industry, particularly farmers.
For instance, the current average lending rate is about 25 percent and for a sector like agriculture, which is seen by lenders as high risk, it is above 30 percent. This means that for young graduates who want to go into the sector but lack capital, going for a bank loan is not an option.
This explains why government effort, like the Planting for Food and Jobs and Rearing for food and jobs, aimed at making the sector more productive and attractive to young people, has yielded little result.
In India for instance, the government gives direct subsidy to farmers to acquire agro inputs, this encourages mechanisation and also serves as a way of attracting young and educated people to go into agriculture in a less labourious manner.
Given the high demand for organic food estimate at about US$165.52 billion across the globe, Mr. James said Ghana could position itself a major player in this industry since it has arable and fertile land across its length and breath. “Ghana potential for production of organic agriculture produce is unmatched in the world which the country could use to attract investors,” he added.
Apart from the aforementioned challenges, the industry is faced by poor infrastructure, including lack of attention to irrigation development, high transport costs, poor roads to farms, land acquisition or tenure issues and social and environmental problems.
Agrictech West Africa 2020
The 2020 Agritech West Africa conference, themed ‘Global agriculture technology suppliers meeting West Africa agro business community in Ghana’, is slated to come off in Accra from June 9 – 11, 2020. It is expected to attract over 6000 participants, including equipment manufacturers, agric entrepreneurs, exhibitors, diplomats and government officials.