Government urged to introduce crop-specific policies
The Agency for Health and Food Security (AHEFS), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) with focus on agriculture, has urged the government to consider introducing crop-specific policies and implementing strategies to help the country become food sufficient, especially in the area of vegetables.
This is part of recommendations the NGO outlined in its new study titled: “Strengthening agricultural value chain economies for sustainable development (SAVES): A focus on vegetables.”
The purpose of the study was to conduct a desk review and focus group discussion of existing agricultural policies and proposals based on evidences from the global best practices to inform national and sub-regional level policy recommendations and advocacy.
Speaking at a national dialogue on vegetables, Mr Kwaku Asante, the Executive Director of AHEFS, noted that although Ghana spent a lot of money importing vegetables from neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso, Togo and Niger, the country could end such a practice by introducing crop-specific policies to boost its vegetable sector.
He said, for instance, that the country annually spent more than US$100 million to import tomatoes and onions from Burkina Faso, Togo, and Niger to meet its vegetable needs.
Mr Asante was of the view that the country’s agricultural policies had been general in nature and therefore did not address peculiar needs of specific crop types such as vegetables.
That, he said, agriculture policies should be designed for specific vegetables with clearly defined implementation strategies “that take into consideration the peculiar challenges and food safety concerns associated with such crops and their value chains”.
Mr Asante said many countries that had been able to address challenges in their vegetable sector had done so through the introduction of crop-specific policies and implementation strategies.
He said China and Thailand, for instance, used to have undersupply of vegetables in the 1980s, but less than a decade after they introduced crop-specific policies, they were able to have oversupply of vegetables.
According to Mr Asante, the vegetable industry offered great opportunities for growth, given the steady increase in demand in the domestic markets and the increasing export opportunities.
He noted that the domestic vegetable market alone was growing at more than 10 per cent per annum and the potential value for export was estimated at US$250 million.
The Executive Director expressed concern about the country’s seemingly overemphasis on improvement in cocoa, cereal and legumes production in agricultural policies as against other crops such as vegetables.
Mr Asante consequently stressed the need for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to collaborate with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to enhance the vegetable value chain to create market for local farmers.
Ms Esther Agyemang, the Desk Officer in-charge of vegetables at MoFA, said the vegetable sector played an important role in the country’s economy and food security, pointing out that government would continue to create an enabling environment for the sector to thrive.
She said, for instance, government introduced the green house technology in the country to help boost the sector.
Mr Alfred Antwi Annor, a Team Leader of Trade Export from the Ministry of Trade, admonished vegetable farmers to ensure quality and standards in their produce to enable them market their produce both locally and internationally.
BY BENEDICTA GYIMAAH FOLLEY