Ghana can reduce post-harvest losses by providing smallholder post-harvest storage facilities close to farms to help farmers securely store their products, Charity Naa Anima Sackitey, Managing Director, Barry Callebaut Ghana has said.
“It is imperative to provide training to farmers in drying, pest control and basic preservation techniques,” she said in an interview with Oxford Business Group (OBG), a global publishing, research and consultancy firm, which deals in the publications of market economic intelligence.
The country, Mrs. Sackitey said, should encourage investments in cottage industries for small-scale agro-processing, and these businesses could be owned by smaller farm groups, with farming output becoming a source of their input.
“Finally, agro-processors and farms need to be encouraged to enter service-level agreements to assure farmers of ready markets for their produce,” she said.
Talking about priorities for infrastructure investment in the upstream sector, Mrs. Sackitey stressed on the importance of the link between farming communities and markets.
She said easy access to transport was the key to quickly moving perishable farm produce with a short shelf life to markets, while minimising any loss in produce quality.
“Road infrastructure linking the farming communities to the major road networks should be a priority for the government. This will enable smooth delivery of inputs to the farms and the movement of produce to market centres and ports for export,” she said.
At the same time, MD said, a solid road network would provide access to schools and hospitals and improve the general well-being of the farmer, adding that, “This should motivate farmers to increase output.”
She said another priority was the provision of an appropriate rail network to transport agriculture products to towns and cities.
Mrs. Sackitey said rehabilitation and upgrade of defunct rail lines should greatly benefit, for example, the cocoa sector in the speedy evacuation of cocoa beans from farms to take over centres for export or sale to local processors.
She said providing reliable internet and mobile phone networks were vital so that farmers could access real-time market information and interact with other stakeholders in the food supply chain.
Mrs. Sackitey said farm extension services could be expanded via the use of mobile technology, while the extension of electricity to rural areas would promote and support agro-based industries.
She said the sustainable development of agriculture required the availability of an adequate water supply throughout the year, as Ghana’s farmland is mostly rain fed.
“The government needs to invest in irrigation facilities to ensure year-round farming activities. These facilities could range from smallholder systems, such as dams and canals, to large-scale systems. Illegal mining is taking a huge toll on existing bodies of water, which are necessary for sustainable irrigation activities,” she said.
Talking about ways Ghana could use to expand both its secondary and tertiary processing activities, the MD said the first thing to address was the tough business environment for agro-processing companies with respect to macroeconomic stability, inflation and exchange rates.
“There are also issues related to the availability and price of utilities, taxes and regulatory bottlenecks. Second, difficult access to credit and high interest rates are negatively impacting the competitiveness of local production,” she said.
Finally, she said both technological and knowledge-based capacity building was necessary to overcome productivity, efficiency and quality issues, adding that, “this affects access and competitiveness in both domestic and international markets”.
On what factors affect the mid-crop harvest, and how has it performed in recent years, Mrs. Sackitey said the 2015-16 harvest season was particularly difficult for cocoa growers in Ghana due to the extremely dry and dusty conditions of the harmattan season.
“The 2016-17 season has started relatively well, though. So far we have seen better rainfall during both the major and minor seasons, and it is hoped that a less-severe dry period will translate into a good start of the season and better output of cocoa overall,” she said.
Agriculture is fundamental to Ghana’s economy and employs almost 50 per cent of the population. Although its share of GDP has decreased in recent years, it continues to be vital to growth.