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24
Fri, Nov

Agric must change the game

Gone are the days when agriculture was the backbone of the Ghanaian economy and contributed a large percentage to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Aside from providing employment for about 60 per cent of the population, it also ensured  constant supply of food all-year round for the local economy. 

Over the past few years, however, the sector has become a pale shadow of itself, bedevilled by a myriad of challenges that have made it highly unattractive and unproductive. 

The unattractiveness is reflected in the slump in the contribution of agriculture to GDP over the last five years. In 2010, it contributed 29.9 per cent to GDP; but this declined to 25.6 per cent in 2011 and further dipped to 22.7 per cent in 2012.

The dwindling fortunes continued in 2013, with the sector contributing 22.4 per cent to GDP. In 2014, it dipped further to 21.5 per cent.

The argument that the fast growth in the services sector, powered by telecommunications, accounts for the lowering contribution of agriculture does not hold because agriculture could have been concurrently growing to retain its lustre.

The challenge of high post-harvest losses still rages due to the unavailability of storage and processing facilities to help preserve excess produce for future use.

Ironically, large imports of agricultural produce have become the order of the day. Rice, sugar, as well as oil and salt, are imported every year, leading to a high import bill that erodes the value of the local currency.

The GRAPHIC BUSINESS finds it disheartening that amid the dwindling fortunes of the agricultural sector, much focus has been shifted to oil and gas as the perceived game changer of the economy.

The paper begs to differ.

Farmers are crying over huge post-harvest losses; fisher folk are lamenting the reduced catch that has allegedly hit the sector as a result of oil exploration, yet imports are soaring every year. 

Fixing agriculture is a pro-poor policy that can lift a large section of the populace out of poverty. Doing this comes with positive effects, such as jobs at the processing factories and along the value chain, direct employment in the sector, food security, lower inflation, a stronger macroeconomic environment and, ultimately, a stronger local currency.

While the GRAPHIC BUSINESS lauds efforts by the government to fix the ailing economy, it believes that the bottom line is that no major economic transformation can take place without the agricultural sector being fixed first.

It is possible to transform the economy, but that can be done in a far better way by fixing agriculture. It is time to eliminate the challenges facing the sector, restore its lost glory, reduce post-harvest losses and high import bills and help salvage the cedi.

The government must also take a critical look at production and productivity, storage and marketing, processing and technology along the agricultural value chain.  — GB