A once revered Agric Sector now on life support: The bottlenecks & wayforward.

The agricultural sector is the breath of the economy of Ghana. A document published on Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Ministry website reveals that the sector employs over 40% of working Ghanaians. This equally means, the future of the Ghanaian labour force holds aligiance to this sector. It is  also a panacea towards alleviating poverty amongst graduate unemployed.

The contribution of agriculture, the backbone of Ghana’s economy, to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has dropped by an alarming 12.8% in just seven years (2009-2015).

It dropped from 31.8% in 2009 to a mere 19% as of September 2015, a period of seven years.The contribution of agriculture to GDP in the other years is: 2010 – 29.8%, 2011 -25.3%, 2012 – 22.9%, 2013 – 22.4%, 2014-21.5%.

It dropped from 31.8% in 2009 to 29.8% in 2010, representing 2% GDP contribution lost. In 2011, agriculture’s contribution dropped by 4.5% to 25.3% while 2012 recorded a 2.4% drop to 22.9%,  according  to a publication on myJoyonline.

However, over the period, the sector has been starved by various governments of the attention it deserves in order to ensure it maintains its  consistent growth. During the pre-independence era the sector was described as Ghana’s mainstay/backbone. Today the story isn’t same! There must be something wrong somewhere!

If in the 21st century, Ghana still relies on the weather in order to boost growth then it is an indication that the country has done very little as far as agriculture is concerned.

The government can claim that it has allocated huge sums of money into the sector but there is a huge difference between allocation and disbursement. Thus, money can be allocated but if that money is not disbursed, it remains a mere rhetoric.

Citing the fertilizer subsidy programme as a case study, in 2014, there was no fertilizer subsidy. But in the subsequent year, government did well to bring the programme back, but then it delivered half of what it committed to do; instead of the 180,000 subsidized fertilizers, it did 90,000. This is how dishonest we have become as a nation in relation to managing a sector that was once the largest contributor to our GDP.

Planting for Food & Jobs:

Planting for food and jobs campaign to some extent is inadequate without the provision of reliable and profitable market access for smallholders.

Meanwhile, it is undoubtedly a great campaign. We, as a nation must endeavor to increase our production. However, it is incumbent on us to provide and accelerate reliable and profitable market access for our cherished and hardworking smallholder farmers. Farmers do not just produce for food; they essentially produce to earn income.

Normally, what we witness on the field is that, smallholders loss about 1/3rd of their production due to the lack of readily available market access and storage facilities. In a typical community like Ejura in the Ashanti region of Ghana, mostly, all the farmers produce crops like cassava, maize and vegetables, then, there is a bumper harvest but nobody to buy.Prices drastically reduce and farmers who even want to wait hoping to get favorable prices loss everything at the end to rotten and wastage.

To improve the lives of our farmers, the government must also speed work on improving profitable market access for our farmers to meet the production demands and supply. We must avoid the situation where our farmers produce for waste. And I think, the 1 district, 1 factory if done right and on time will help to reduce the effect of this challenge.

The free fertilizer program currently has huge challenges with distribution and smallholder farmers’ access. From my interactions on the field with some peasant farmers in my community for instance, the following are the issues eating up the beauty of the sector;

a) Poor timing of distribution. Actual and ideal time for fertilizer application starts in May when the rains begin to fall. Unfortunately, most farmers receive their free fertilizers late in August. A bottleneck which must be examined.
Inadequate quantities. b) Unmapped farms or non-members of groups are excluded. c) Lack of effective monitoring, verification and evaluation and other demotivating heddles

So the point is, what mechanisms is the government adopting to ensure adequate accessibility of these inputs by the smallholders. We must avoid the situation where the fertilizer ends up in the officer’s store room rather than the farmer’s cocoa farm.

To solve these issues, government will need innovative technologies like Farmerline mergdate to facilitate verification by using voice surveying technology. Again, the  National Identification system will also be helpful in this verification process.

Proactive Government initiatives:

Government must be applauded for boosting the funding in Agriculture. Agriculture sector has always been underfunded in this country. Item 785 of the 2017 budget, government revealed that, GHC335.14 million was the planned expenditure for the agric sector in 2016. This was miserably slashed down to 50% amounting (GHC181. 29) million as actual expenditure.

About 90% of this actual expenditure was spent on poverty focused expenditures such as the Fertilizer Subsidy programme and the establishment of Agricultural Mechanisation Service Centres, among others to boost agricultural production. For 2017, a total of GH¢450.33 million is estimated for this sector. An amount of GH¢421.52 million of this allocation, representing 93.60 percent, will be spent on the Fertilizer Subsidy programme and the Agricultural Mechanisation service centres, among others. But then again, I think, government should also give deserving attention to the non-cocoa sectors in the agriculture space.

Conclusion:
Agricultural, loan is also a success factor in this sector. It will also be great for government to commit to advancing rural finance and credit access by smallholder farmers. Agricultural Development Bank must Commit itself more to the financial aspects farmers.Tackling these issues will revolutionize agriculture development in Ghana. Public Private partnership is key driver in this too.To sum up all, I would like to acknowledge successive governments for their somewhat prudent strategic  policy roadmaps  that has turned around this precious  sector in recent years. But, more is expected from government of the day to ensure the Sector takes the front pew in domestic and international markets above all.

THE WRITER WORKED WITH:
THE INSTITUTE OF CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS (GHANA)
EMAIL:eligregups@gmail.com

NB: The issue(s) raised in this publication are solely his and does not in any way represents those of his previous place of work or any group/organization.

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