The country’s agricultural output is likely to fall if measures are not instituted by the government to reverse the trend, two research surveys commissioned by the Real Sector Division under the Ministry of Finance (MoF) have revealed.
The studies: ” Inventory of post-harvest infrastructure in Ghana and “Ageing farmers and youth in agriculture in Ghana,” conducted last year indicate that poor infrastructure and ageing farmers, whose average age was 55, were likely to affect the productivity of the agricultural sector, especially cash crops such as cocoa.
It was conducted by the Agricultural and Agribusiness (AG) Unit of the Real Sector Division of the MOF in collaboration with the Agribusiness Unit of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Speaking at a dissemination workshop in Accra on Tuesday to present the findings of the two surveys, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Mrs Mona Helen K. Quartey said the studies were to provide evidence-based information to inform policy planning to promote the agricultural sector.
She said the use of post-harvest infrastructure in agriculture was very crucial due to the fact that post-harvest losses were perceived to be high, indicating that “anecdotal evidence suggests that about 20 to 30 per cent of food produced is lost along the post-harvest chain before it reaches the final consumer”.
Mrs. Quartey said the ageing population of farmers had implications for productivity, food security, rural poverty and rural-urban migration.
She said the agriculture sector played a pivotal role in production and employment, indicating that the sector contributes about 20 per cent to Gross Domestic Product, adding that the sector was the largest employer and employed more that 41 per cent of the country’s labour force and constituted the main source of income for rural households and the main source of food to the population.
“This is why the Ministry of Finance and its collaborators thought it wise to launch an investigation into the state of post-harvest infrastructure and the age structure of farmers in Ghana,” she said.
Mrs Quartey said government was supporting the development of appropriate agricultural financing instruments, including warehousing receipt systems and agriculture insurance schemes to mitigate the key risks faced by farmers and expressed gratitude to the USAID for supporting the research.
The Deputy Managing Director of COCOBOD, Eric Bani in a speech read on his behalf said COCOBOD recognising ageing farmers on the impact of cocoa industry in 2014 introduced a programme to attract more youths to cocoa farming.
Currently, he said 46,660 in 52 youth groups have been attracted in cocoa farming and had been provided high yielding and disease and pest resistance seeds.
The Deputy Director of Economic Growth Office of USAID Ghana, Brian S. Conklin said USAID supported the surveys in order to provide credible information to help in policy planning.
That, he said, fits perfectly well in the President Obama’s Feed the Future Programme, aimed at building a thriving agricultural sector in Ghana and other African countries, to promote growth and create employment for the youth.
Mr Bashiru Abdul Razak, the Acting Director of the Real Estate Division of the MoF in his remarks said the adverse impact of the absence of post-harvest infrastructure and ageing farmers on agricultural productivity was real.
By Kingsley Asare