- Collaboration to drive economic growth, improve diets and generate employment opportunities.
In a determined effort to revitalise its horticultural sector and address the pressing issue of a US$3.4billion import bill, primarily consisting of processed agrifoods, Ghana is embarking on a strategic partnership with The Netherlands.
The move is necessitated by instability in the Sahel region, which has at times disrupted vital agrifood imports such as Nigerien onions and Burkinabè tomatoes – putting Ghana’s food supply chain under strain. The initiative’s overarching goal is to foster economic growth, enhance nutritional intake and create employment opportunities.
The Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, Jeroen Verheul, expressed concern about the insecurity situation in the Sahel and its negative impact on imports of certain food items during the Fruit and Vegetables Fair opening, hosted by the Department of Parks and Gardens in Accra.
“This poses a challenge for Ghana, as the average intake of fresh vegetables by Ghanaians is already relatively small compared to its regional neighbours,” the Ambassador noted.
Ghana’s average consumption of fresh vegetables lags behind its regional counterparts, presenting a nutritional challenge. A substantial portion of the nation’s onions are imported, with markets in Kumasi and Accra alone accounting for an annual import value of US$120million.
The Netherlands has been collaborating with the country’s horticultural farmers and entrepreneurs for several years, recognising the sector as a prominent driver of economic growth. The key drivers for strengthening this partnership are economic growth, improved diets and increased employment opportunities.
“Economic growth through horticulture is a fundamental aspect of our collaboration,” the Ambassador emphasised.
Ghana’s agricultural sector constitutes nearly 20 percent of its GDP and contributes over 30 percent to export earnings. The horticultural value chain, encompassing tomatoes, peppers, onions and okra plays a pivotal role in the economic landscape, boasting an impressive growth rate of 10 percent – surpassing the broader agricultural sector’s average of 3.3 percent.
Nonetheless, Ghana heavily relies on imports from neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon and Togo to satisfy its agrifood demand. For instance, the country produces only 5 percent of the onions it consumes locally, underscoring the imperative of augmenting domestic production to reduce import dependency and stimulate economic growth.
“Improving diets and nutrition is another vital dimension of our partnership. Ghanaians face nutritional challenges, with vegetable consumption falling significantly below recommended levels,” The Netherlands Ambassador elaborated.
Data from the Global Nutrition Report reveal that Ghanaians consume only 46 percent of the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables, which should be a minimum of 400 grammes per person. Elevated vegetable prices, especially for items like tomatoes, onions and chilies, contribute to this deficiency, with only 13 percent of total food expenditure allocated to vegetables.
To tackle this issue, The Netherlands is collaborating with various initiatives in Ghana aimed at boosting horticultural production and reducing production costs. The goal is to make vegetables and fruit more accessible to Ghanaians, thereby enhancing their diets and overall health.
Generating employment opportunities is the partnership’s third pillar. Agriculture is Ghana’s largest employer, engaging approximately 36 percent of the population…albeit largely in subsistence farming. Both the Ghanaian and Dutch governments share a vision of transforming this scenario by supporting small and medium enterprises in the agricultural sector.
By promoting the growth of horticultural businesses, these partnerships aim to create more jobs, stimulate economic growth and facilitate industrialisation. Initiatives such as incorporating farming as a business into horticultural curricula and providing training on good agricultural practices and quality hybrid seeds are pivotal in achieving this goal.
The recently established Horticultural Business Platform (HBP) serves as a prime example of these collaborations. It functions as a platform for farmers, cooperatives, governments, entrepreneurs, knowledge institutes and private sector actors from both Ghana and The Netherlands to come together, build bridges and facilitate partnerships within the sector.
As the nation strives to move beyond aid, The Netherlands says it is committed to deepening the partnership between the two nations, leveraging its position as the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter. With a wealth of agricultural consumer products, planting materials, innovative technologies, expertise and experience, The Netherlands aims at supporting Ghana to make substantial strides in its horticultural sector.