Agriculture remains an important pillar of Ghana’s economy, employing nearly half of the workforce and contributing about 20% to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Although growing at an annual average rate of about 5% over ten years (2012-2021), agriculture has the potential to contribute even more to Ghana’s socioeconomic standing given the nation’s rich natural and human capital endowments. However, various challenges hamper its competitiveness and limit the sector’s domestic and global growth.
The agricultural sector in Ghana faces various challenges, including ineffective collaboration, policy incoherence, weak regulatory compliance and enforcement, and duplication of efforts across intervention areas. Furthermore, the sector is susceptible to external shocks such as the ongoing war in Ukraine, which could potentially result in the loss of jobs and revenue. Concerns have been raised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP) regarding the escalating food insecurity in Ghana and several other West African countries (published on UNICEF’s website in Dec 2022).
Resolving these bottlenecks calls for a holistic, cross-cutting approach that engages actors within the sector. Such collaborative efforts have proven to positively impact agriculture and based on a study conducted by INCLUDE (an African-Dutch research group), knowledge sharing on a stakeholder innovation platform led to an increase in cassava yields in Ghana.
Agriculture Stakeholder Convening and Advocacy Platform (ASCAP)
The Ghana Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (GIRSAL), through its Technical Assistance Facility, conceived and developed the Agriculture Stakeholder Convening and Advocacy Platform (ASCAP) to help find solutions to issues in the agriculture sector. ASCAP was launched in June 2022 in partnership with the Ministry of Finance (MoF), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), and the Private Enterprise Federation (PEF).
Since its inception, the Platform has started to bring together government institutions, private sector participants (financial institutions, agribusinesses, farmer-based organizations), and development partners to identify and resolve bottlenecks in the agricultural and agribusiness space.
ASCAP aims to provide a sustainable and coordinated forum for stakeholder dialogue to ensure policy coherence, facilitate concerted efforts, strengthen institutional enforcement of standards and regulations, and enhance competitiveness and integration into domestic and international markets. This, the Chief Executive Officer of GIRSAL, Kwesi Korboe believes, “will provide an avenue for multiple actors in agricultural value chains to appropriately contribute towards enhancing sector competitiveness”.
Agribusinesses, Financial Institutions and GIRSAL will lead collaborations on the Platform. Other private sector actors are expected to articulate their needs to guide policies to be developed by government institutions. Development partners would assist the government in providing technical and funding support towards policy implementation. Collaborations on the Platform will be led by GIRSAL through forums, workshops, and technical meetings. Issues addressed are to be selected based on priority value chains that accelerate import substitution and increase exports.
Priority Areas for 2023
GIRSAL and the stakeholders through the ASCAP initiative have identified three focal areas in 2023 for further assessment and engagement towards the resolution of the identified issues:
1. Assessment of the Fertilizer Subsidy Program
The Fertilizer Subsidy Program (FSP) is a component of the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) initiative which sought to improve food security, create employment opportunities, and improve food import substitution. The program is reported to have led to an increase in the productivity and output of the targeted crops.
Against this backdrop, ASCAP has commissioned a study which aims to evaluate the impact of the fertilizer subsidy program through a cost-benefit analysis that will provide a basis for recommendations on how to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of the program.
Given this, beneficiary and non-beneficiary farmers, input dealers, District Directors of MoFA, Customs, and Immigration Officers in selected districts across six regions (Ashanti, Bono, Volta, Greater Accra, Northern, and Upper East Regions) have been interviewed on their experiences of the subsidy program. Other relevant data from the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture have also been obtained and reviewed. Findings based on initial analyses have resulted in preliminary recommendations on the subsidy program. Further engagements with relevant actors are planned to validate and further develop the recommendations and action points emerging from the study.
2. Resolving the issue of management of the Fruit Terminal at Tema Port (SHED 9)
The Platform also intends to focus on resolving management issues of Shed 9, necessitated by the ongoing dispute among key players in logistics for exports that endangers the nation’s competitiveness in the multi-billion-dollar global horticulture market. The dispute emerged when the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) gave the once-exclusive license for two critical aspects of the sea freight process (stevedoring and shore handling) held by a company owned by the horticulture industry to a new company -Fruit Export Terminal Limited (FET)- in which it holds a stake.
This situation has left a vehicle expressly set up by the government and the industry for this purpose – the Fruit Terminal Company Limited (FTC) – without any control of their logistics contrary to industry practice in other leading horticultural exporting countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Kenya, and South Africa, which has led to lowered efficiency and higher cost. More significantly, the industry risks losing the opportunity/ability in the future to further drive down costs by balancing the costs of importation of agricultural cargos to subsidize fruit exports, as is done in most other horticultural exporting countries. This can only be done if the Fruit Terminal and all associated operations in the fruit terminal (Shed 9) are in the hands of an entity like FTC which is not a profit-making company but rather has as its mission to reduce the cost of exports for farmers.
As part of ASCAP’s role in helping to resolve the dispute, there have been engagements with the Ministry of Transport, GPHA, and players in the horticulture industry to highlight the increased costs in handlings exports due to the current arrangement and the urgent need to reverse management of SHED 9 to exporters in the horticulture industry to enhance their competitiveness.
3. Investigation of the competitiveness and trade remedies of the poultry broiler industry
The third focus area is the investigation of the competitiveness and trade remedies of the poultry broiler industry. The suspected dumping of imported frozen chicken into the Ghanaian market has become a major issue plaguing the industry and a cause for enormous concern among stakeholders in the sector.
Under the ASCAP initiative, GIRSAL has partnered with the Ghana International Trade Commission (GITC) to investigate probable causes of consistent importation of lower-priced poultry meat, despite tax reliefs on imported production inputs and high import duties on imported poultry as well as to determine probable causes of high production costs of local poultry broiler.
To this end, four (4) stakeholder meetings have been held with key institutions including the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Ghana Standards Authority, Ghana Exim Bank, Ghana Free Zones Authority, Poultry Farmers, and Importers to share their experiences and provide recommendations on improving the industry’s competitiveness.
Consequently, a working document targeted at developing the poultry industry is expected to be finalized by May 2023.
Reversing the trend and facilitating growth
ASCAP aims at strengthening stakeholder collaborations for the much-needed synergies and partnerships in developing Ghana’s agriculture sector.
Since its inception, the Platform has facilitated engagements among actors in selected value chains including farmers, input dealers, exporters, regulators, and policymakers, resulting in initial recommendations on improving the Fertilizer Subsidy Program, deliberations towards reversing the management of SHED 9 to industry players as well as developing a working document by relevant actors on improving competitiveness in the poultry industry.
Such collaborations among stakeholders are not only critical but timely towards the advancement of the agriculture and agribusiness space to further increase the quality and volume of agricultural products, strengthen food security, create jobs, increase foreign earnings, and improve Ghana’s socioeconomic development.