Ghana’s increasing population, changing weather patterns and global food price hikes are squeezing the budget of the less well-off. Although agricultural production has grown at over 5% annually since 2001, this has largely been achieved by bringing new land into cultivation. Yield gaps between Ghana’s productivity levels, compared to what is achievable, are far too high.
Adopting a business-as-usual approach to agriculture in Ghana is really not an option if long-term and sustainable food security is to be achieved. But already, Ghana commits almost 10% of its annual budget to improving agriculture, placing it top of the list of investors in the sector in Africa. Added to this, Ghana’s spending on agricultural research and development more than doubled between 2002 and 2008.
In developing this pro-agriculture policy, Ghana makes an ideal platform for the first AGRITEC West Africa 2011, a brand new regional agribusiness exhibition and conference already attracting international interest from China, South Africa, Brazil, Denmark and Spain amongst others. The event, which takes place from 10-12 May 2011 at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra, brings together international vendors of agricultural and horticultural equipment, systems and technologies to regional importers, distributors, agents, investors and entrepeneurs in West Africa. It will demonstrate how the latest available world quality products and services can augment and improve upon Ghana’s traditional agricultural practices.
One of the most important factors identified as militating against the growth of agriculture in the region is inadequate and limited irrigation infrastructure and practices. Amongst the government’s priorities is the Accra Plains Irrigation Project which is expected to identify 200,000 hectares of which 5,000 hectares will be designated as a priority area for irrigation development. The project, when completed, will be used to cultivate crops such as banana, soya bean, rice, pineapple, mango, maize, groundnut and cowpea.
Food crop yields in Ghana have shown disappointing growth in past years largely thought to result from low investment in fertilisers, seed technology and other agricultural inputs. AGRITEC West Africa 2011 participants and multinational supplier of mineral fertilisers, YARA Ghana, will demonstrate how crop knowledge and locally applied expertise can produce above-average crop yields.
Running parallel with the exhibition will be an educational conference where delegates will tap into two days of intensive knowledge-sharing presentations and deliberate on, and share experiences, success stories and challenges as well as developing areas of collaboration and cooperation. A major conference stream will be devoted to the fast growing aquaculture industry currently attracting increased investment in the region.
Conference case studies are likely to include that of an Indian investor who is currently negotiating the purchase of 100,000 hectares of land in the north of the country for the mass production of maize and rice. This project alone will employ 2,000 Ghanaians as well as 100 Indian expatriate workers.
Ghana produces a quarter of the world’s cocoa which provides a major source of foreign currency. Outdated and unsustainable farming methods have resulted in low productivity and declining soil fertility over the years. But according to Noah Kwasi Amenyah, responsible for public affairs at Ghana Cocoa Board, cocoa farmers have enjoyed higher incomes for the current cropping season and interventions are underway to improve soil fertility in order to increase yield per hectare.
AGRITEC West Africa 2011 responds directly to the heightened interest resulting from growing investment in Ghana’s agricultural sector following publication of the Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP) by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in September 2010, which calls for significant improvements in the productivity of the agriculture sector required to raise the average real incomes of Ghanaians as a whole as well as having a positive impact on the attainment of at least five of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The event will bring together the latest scientific developments in crop cultivation as well as suppliers of farm machinery, irrigation systems, horticulture, agricultural and garden tools, agrichemicals, food processing and packaging, aquaculture, cool-chain technology, grain transport and processing, pest control and biotechnologies, agricultural education, biofuel production and agritourism to showcase their products and services to regional buyers from Ghana and throughout West Africa.
President John Atta Mills declared 2011 “a year of action” in his state of the nation address. Moving from slash and burn subsistence agriculture to a high tech, agribusiness economy ready to feed Ghana’s increasing population and reduce its dependency on imported commodities is the challenge.