Agric returning to growth path?

The 2017 third quarter GDP figures from the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) have shown that the country’s agriculture sector grew by 10 percent, a significant improvement from the 3.4 percent recorded in the previous quarter.

Prior to this, the last time the agriculture sector recorded growth rates above 10 percent was three years back — third quarter of 2014 — when it grew by 28 percent.

The 28 percent growth was significant because growth had largely been in the negatives from 2012 through to 2014 second quarter.

However, after hitting that figure, growth dipped consistently been below 10 percent – plummeting sharply to 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.

In 2015, it further worsened to 0.4 in the first quarter, but inched up to 3.7 percent, 4.4 percent, and 2 percent in the last three quarters respectively.

The year 2016 was nothing to write home about. After rising to 5 percent in the first quarter, the sector’s growth dropped to 3.9, 2.8, and a miserable 1.9 percent respectively for the second, third and fourth quarters.

But the sector showed a bit of hope in 2017 as it grew by 7.7 percent in the first quarter, but dropped to 3.4 percent, and jumped to 10 percent in the third quarter. Fourth quarter figures are yet to be released.

So, the question is: is agriculture returning to the path of growth to live up to its name as the backbone of the economy after being outshone for many years by the other two sectors—industry and services?

Considering the number of interventions being rolled out by the Akufo-Addo-led government, it may be right to say the results are reflecting somewhat in the growth figures.

A notable intervention that was started in 2016 was the Planting for Food and Jobs programme, which was launched in April.

Government has showed commitment to the programme by earmarking GH₵560million in the 2017 budget to the project.

Even though an official report has not been given about the programme’s success or progress, an estimated GH¢1.3billion worth of food – equivalent to 3.8million metric tonnes – was expected at end of the 2017 planting season.

The project is also expected to create 750,000 jobs and increase the production of maize by 30 percent, rice by 49 percent, soybean by 25 percent, and sorghum by 28 percent from current production levels.

Government, in the 2018 budget, unveiled a ‘Marshall Plan for Agriculture’ (MPA) aimed at revamping the sector.

Some of the initiatives under the plan include registering a total of 500,000 farmers under the Planting for Food and Jobs programme, and also recruiting 2,700 extension agents to support it.

Again, government will distribute 200 tractors and matching implements, and 1,000 power-tillers and walking tractors to enhance agric mechanisation.

To address the challenges of irrigation, government said it will also continue to facilitate and promote double-cropping by constructing 50 small dams and dugouts – making available an additional 147ha of irrigable land for crop production.

To also improve livelihoods of livestock farmers in all ten regions and increase meat production, 2,000 livestock farmers will be supported with 70,000 small ruminants (sheep and goats).

The ministry will also support six National Livestock Breeding Stations to produce and distribute 200 crossbred heifers, 1,700 improved pigs, and 100,000 cockerels.

In addition to the aforementioned, the Akufo-Addo Programme for Economic Transformation (AAPET) will establish a GH¢400million fund to de-risk the agriculture and agribusiness sector through sustainable agriculture financing and crop insurance schemes.

The AAPET is aimed at mobilising and leveraging public, private, and public-private partnership investments; modernising and transforming agriculture; and developing major infrastructure projects that support the agricultural zones of the country and industrialisation agenda of government.

It will also support the development of agribusiness start-ups through the establishment of a grant funding facility, and abolish duties on some agricultural produce processing equipment and machinery.

It is hoped that all these interventions will achieve their purpose of setting the agriculture sector on the path of growth so as to retain its position as the true backbone of the economy.