Ghana Cares programme holds two-day inter-ministerial stakeholder meetings on agric sector

Ghana Cares programme holds two-day inter-ministerial stakeholder meetings on agric sector

Two-day stakeholder consultation has been held for industry players in the agriculture sector on value chain addition and strategies to increase productivity under the Ghana COVID-19 Alleviation, Revitalisation and Enterprise Support (CARES) programme.

The programme was organised by the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the Ministries of Food and Agriculture and Trade and Industry, and brought together farmers, researchers, exporters, importers of farm produce and CEOs from the tomato, rice, poultry and soybean sectors across the country.

In her opening remarks, Eva Mends – a coordinating director at the Ministry of Finance and desk-officer of the Ghana CARES programme noted that the president last year launched the GH¢100billion Obaatanpa programme to ensure the country recovers from harsh impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

“As a country, we have been struggling to ensure sustainable food production, security and efficiency; and we have attempted so many ways it became obvious that we needed a new approach during the pandemic,” she stated.

“The president therefore tasked the Minister of Finance to develop a programme that would ensure we got out of the harsh impacts of the pandemic – which led to the birth of the Ghana CARES programme,” she continued.

The target of government under the Ghana CARES programme, she revealed, is to increase production, access to transportation of goods, marketing, value addition and packaging of final products.

Ms. Mends expressed confidence that the meeting will encourage participants to bring ideas on how their sectors can be made viable, and also see the importance of producing locally to feed the country and limit commodity imports which arrive at the the expense of local enterprises.

Twumasi Ankrah, Director at the Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, who spoke on behalf of the Chief Director-Ministry of Agriculture, also added that government recognises the agriculture sector as critical to assisting in the economy’s revitalisation.

He reiterated Ms. Mend’s call for deliberate and fruitful discussion among participants drawn from the tomato, rice, poultry and soya production sectors to ensure policy planners and implementers input their recommendations for action.

Presentation on the poultry value chain

Anthony Yeboah, who gave a presentation of behalf of the Agric Crop directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, talked about feed production, breeder farms and hatching systems, haulage and processing/packaging facilities, support services, national chicken requirement and production levels. He stated that demand for poultry meat in Ghana is ever-increasing while domestic supply remains mostly stagnant.

To address this challenge, he revealed government’s five-year production plan that will ensure 5,000,000 birds are produced in the first year, with 10,000 metric tonnes of chicken/meat produced. The fifth year will witness the production of 200,000,000 birds with 400,000 metric tonnes of chicken/meat produced.

On poultry feed production, he stated that Ghana currently has 23 commercial feed mills with a total capacity of 100mt per hour, and they produce an average quantity of 312,000mt of feed per annum. “Poultry feed accounts for about 70% of total animal feed produced in Ghana; and out of this layer-feed forms about 80% due to the drop in domestic broiler production,” the officer revealed.

On breeder farms and hatching systems, he said there are eleven (11) hatcheries operating commercially to produce day-old chicks to support the poultry industry in Ghana – yet 3.5 million and 4.8 million-day-old chicks were imported in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Even though these local hatcheries produce day-old chicks, the quality is generally low; so most poultry farmers prefer to buy imported day-old chicks.

Key issues affecting the poultry value chain

According to Mr. Yeboah, some of the key issues affecting the poultry value chain and leading to poor performance of the sector included: inputs quality, e.g. feed, day-old chicks, veterinary inputs were all outside the control of the farmer; plus high input costs, consistent contamination of the production environment and weak public policy support,

Others were low technical knowledge on best practices for layer and broiler production; limited access to quality feed and veterinary inputs and services; limited financial support to invest in new infrastructure or upgrade/expand existing investment; high cost and unavailability of raw materials for feed production; and limited access to land for poultry farming, processing as well as growing inputs for feed.

Strategies to address the issues

He ended with some of government’s key strategies to address challenges in the poultry value chain’s Processing and Value Addition: these included Investment in processing facilities by the private sector (either for rental or leasing); Investment in cold chain, storage and transport (for day-old chicks) facilities led by private sector; Processing poultry products (sausages, nuggets, etc.) led by the private sector.

On Veterinary Drugs and Vaccines, he stated that there is a need to produce poultry vaccines and drugs locally in partnership with local pharmaceutical companies.

Touching on Feed inputs and production, Mr. Yeboah said there ought to be Investment in commercial maize and soybean production throughout grower schemes led by the private sector; and Investment in efficient feed-mills led by the private sector.

Again, Leasing or renting small- and medium-sized feed milling equipment led by the private sector; Investment in laboratories or test kits to test feed quality (public-private partnership); and Partnership with local commercial feed mills to upgrade existing ones are also some of the strategies needed to address challenges.

Tomato pathway to self-sufficiency

Another presentation by the Horticulture Unit, Directorate of Crop Services under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture on tomato value chain, highlighted the general information, key challenges and strategies to combat them.

According to the presentation, Tomato production in Ghana is highly seasonal – reflecting differences in access to water and rainfall patterns and over 90,000 farmers involved in tomato production (IFPRI, 2010). It is predominantly practiced on smallholder, family-operated farms using rudimentary technology to produce about 80% of total output with the bumper season being July-September.

Key challenges in the tomato value chain

Some of the key challenges adversely affecting the tomato value chain included: limited availability of well-adapted varieties for fresh and processing markets. The bulk of all seeds are either imported (mostly from the Netherlands, France or China) or farmer-saved seeds; Limited access to specialised fertilisers and pesticides; Lack of irrigation equipment and greenhouse structures well-suited for the local environment; Insufficient number of trained tomato breeders; Underdeveloped private sector and seed system. There is no commercial production of improved varieties in Ghana, and there is inadequate access to competitive finance.

Others were inadequate post-harvest handling and processing techniques – post-harvest handling, transport, storage and processing losses have been estimated at between 20 and 65 percent of production (Vowotor et al. 2012); increasing price of inputs; fierce competition from highly subsidised countries; large-scale commercial production and import from Burkina Faso, China, South Africa; high consumer preference for imported commodities which have local alteratives; high seasonal price-variation; lack of cold chain facilities; Poor and inefficient supply chain; and a Poor grading and standardisation system.

Strategies to address challenges for higher yields

A number of governmental approaches to address the challenge for higher yields included Promotion of varieties appropriate for open field and protected cultivation, fresh and processing markets; promotion of a national tomato technical GAPs training and backstopping programme appropriate for each agro-ecological zone, Strengthening the technical and managerial skills/capacity  of Tomato Farmer Based Groups/Associations (SHEP Approach, ‘Tomato-Extension’); supporting the expansion of dams and dug-outs  for irrigated tomato farming; and Promoting the use of consolidated fields (farms) for Mechanised Commercial Tomato Production to feed processing plants.

Other strategies involve the establishment of a National Tomato working group; development of a national master plan for the tomato industry; collaboration with stakeholders to develop bankable proposals for support/funding; and establishment of a vegetable/tomato board to coordinate activities of the industry.

Overview of rice production in Ghana

According to the presentation on rice production, total rice consumption is estimated to be around 1,400,000 MT (2019) with an estimated per capita consumption of 38-40kg. Ghana therefore depended largely on imported rice to make up for the deficit in domestic rice supply.

Key challenges

Some key challenges in the rice production value chain include: complicated Land tenure system; insufficient mechanised services; limited use of improved seeds, fertilizer and other inputs; limited irrigation infrastructure; poor harvesting and post-harvest management technologies (including poor storage infrastructure); limited access to credit; Poor feeder road networks.

Other were limited access to credit; poor storage infrastructure; poor quality of paddy rice from farmers; expensive spare-parts and accessories; competition from cheap imports; weak local marketing system, especially distribution; expensive packaging materials and expensive parboiling vessels.

Interventions to address the challenges

Interventions to address the challenges include Planting for Food and Jobs (rice is one of the crops promoted); provision of improved seeds, supply of fertiliser; provision of dedicated extension services; marketing strategy and electronic platform (e-Agriculture).

Others were interventions supported by external bodies like the Sustainable Development of Rain-fed Lowland Rice Production Project (Tensui II) – JICA; Project for Enhancing Market-Based Agriculture by Smallholders and Private Sector Linkages in Kpong Irrigation Scheme – JICA; Ghana Commercial Agriculture Programme – WB, USAID; Ghana Agricultural Sector Investment Programme – IFAD; Competitive African Rice Initiative – GIZ; Green Innovation Centre – GIZ.

Overview of soybean industry in Ghana

Soybean remains the world’s leading economic oilseed crop and was introduced to Ghana in 1901. It was not until the mid-1990s that it became an important crop in Ghana. Soybean is a major source of protein (40%) and oil (20%) and rich in minerals and vitamins. It also has its challenges, like the others.

Key challenges

Some key challenges with soybean production include inadequate access to improved production and processing technologies, credit, inputs and marketing; inadequate supply and access to improved seeds by smallholder farmers; and also at the foundation and breeder level, high cost of land preparation, high cost of labour, poor pricing and unreliable and unstable markets for soybeans; pests and diseases, pod shattering and inadequate machinery for planting, harvesting and threshing.

On-going programmes

A number of on-going programmes to address the soybean production challenges by government include Planting for Food and Jobs (soybean is one of the crops considered), provision of improved seeds; supply of fertilisers; provision of dedicated extension services; marketing strategy and the infusion of electronic platform (e-Agriculture); Savannah Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project; Excellent breeding programmes being carried out at CSIR-CRI and CSIR-SARI for the release of elite soybean varieties

General discussions

While admitting a number of the challenges in the four sectors discussed, a number of participants commended government for its willingness to engage them through the Ghana CARES programme.

Darko Farms’ Chief Executive Officer, Samuel Darko, asked for hatchery standardisation because there are so many different incubators out there whose operations need to be harmonised. He claimed that such legislation will boost confidence among operators in the sector.

John Adusei, Chief Executive Officer of Chick and Chicken, also added that the importation of day-old chicks impedes the progress of work in the poultry sector. He reiterated Mr. Darko’s call for standardisation of hatcheries as poultry starts from day-old chicks and how well they are taken care of.

Other speakers included Boris Baidoo of Boris B farms, while farmers in the tomato and rice sectors also shared their opinions. They called for more research to be undertaken to come out with improved seeds and modern methods of production.

Other comments centred on high cost of electricity and issues of finances, which include existing loans and long-term financing at reasonable rates among others.

The organisers of the two-day programme gave assurances that a working group will be constituted to look at the issues raised, and called for more discussions on the best way forward for the Agriculture sector within the Ghana CARES programe.

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