The Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) has called for public-private investment in the cultivation of straw to make it readily available to basket weavers to increase production.
Basket weaving is one of the major employment avenues in northern Ghana, especially the Upper East Region, where more than 200,000 people are engaged in the business chain, however, a major challenge confronting the sector is the high cost of straw and its inconsistent supply.
The straw, usually obtained from the vetiver or elephant grass, is the main raw material needed in the production of straw baskets but it is scarce and can only be obtained from the Ashanti and the then Brong-Ahafo regions.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Bolgatanga, Mr Martin Akogti, the Upper East and Upper West Regional Zonal Officer of GEPA, said the Authority had been training the weavers across the country and identified the straw sector as an area that needed huge investment.
He said his outfit had conducted a feasibility study, which revealed that the vetiver grass could be cultivated in the Region and that GEPA was devising measures to support some farmers to cultivate it on pilot basis.
Mr Akogti explained that the initiative was capital intensive and, therefore, advocated public-private-partnership investment to support farmers in the Region to cultivate in large quantities to meet the high demand and make it sustainable.
He indicated that investing in the straw sector would not only make it easily accessible and affordable but also enable weavers to increase production to meet both local and international demands.
It would also encourage more people, especially the youth, to venture into straw basket weaving as alternative sources of livelihoods, thereby reducing the rate of unemployment and rural-urban migration.
It would also provide viable economic empowerment for poor rural communities, he added.
GEPA, as a state institution, facilitated, developed and promoted Ghanaian exports and non-traditional products including handicrafts to accelerate economic growth, Mr Akogti said.
He said GEPA had begun processes to have its Act amended to ensure proper regulation of the fragmented system, especially with regards to pricing.
He identified intellectual property right as a major challenge confronting exporters, especially those dealing with non-traditional products, and said GEPA through its Legal Department it would address the challenge.
Mr Akogti reiterated GEPA’s aggressiveness to boosting the export sector to promote economic growth, contribute to achieving the Ghana beyond Aid agenda as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.
He expressed optimism that when the reviewed Ghana National Export Development Strategy was launched many of the challenges facing the sector would be addressed.