Ghana is known to be an agricultural country because about 60 per cent of its labour force is engaged in the sector. In spite of the fact that the country has a total land area of about 23.9 million hectares, 57 per cent of which is suitable for agriculture, it is yet to realise its full potential in that area.
Yet agriculture can be the sector that will lead the overall growth in the country. Countries such as Vietnam, India and China used agriculture, in which they had comparative advantage, as a precursor to the rise of many industries in those countries and this has seen growth and development in the lives of their citizens.
Apart from the initial advantage of making a country self-sufficient in food crop production, growth in the agricultural sector has the potential to induce strong growth in other sectors of the economy, such as transport and processing, through multiplier effects.
Despite having the potential to be self-sufficient in food production and have surplus for export, Ghana continues to spend an average of $2 billion each year to import food, to the detriment of other sectors of the economy.
It is worrying that the country spends this huge sum of money to import items like onions, tomatoes, rice, chicken, plantain and even kontomire (cocoyam leaves). What is even more disturbing is that these food items are imported from neighbouring countries that do not have climatic conditions as good as we have in the country.
In situations where we produce some of those food items, dealers still prefer to import them, leaving the produce to rot on the farms, with our farmers losing out on their ventures.
The disclosure that Ghana spends up to CFA 56 billion to buy tomatoes from Burkina Faso, in spite of the fact that large quantities of the produce are grown here, is a call for Ghana to sit up and take a critical look at its agricultural processes — from production to the marketing of the produce.
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At a tomato stakeholders’ meeting at Tuobodom in the Brong Ahafo Region, the Chairman of the National Tomato Traders and Transporters Association, Mr Eric Osei Tuffuor, said about 90 per cent of fresh tomatoes produced in Burkina Faso were sold to Ghana alone.
With Ghana said to be among the largest consumers of tomatoes (both fresh and canned) on the continent, the Daily Graphic wonders why that industry has not received the necessary attention over the years. It is insightful to note that our farmers produce a great quantity of tomatoes which could be sold locally and probably for export.
What appear to be the problem are preservation and packaging and a little investment to train the farmers in that direction.
We are gratified to note that the meeting took place after discussions with the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, during his three-day visit to the region and that the meeting was attended by officials, including a Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Mr George Oduro.
This gives us hope that the issue will receive very serious attention, especially during this period when one of the top programmes of the government is Planting for Food and Jobs.