Horticultural sector a critical contributor to Ghana’s economic growth-Netherlands Ambassador

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Netherlands Ambassador
Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, H.E. Jeroen Verheul speaking at the event.

Ghana Vegetables, in collaboration with the Horticulture Business Platform, has organized the Fruit and Vegetables Fair 2023 under the theme “Harnessing the gains of the horticulture sector, with a focus on AFCFTA.”

This year’s Ghana Fruit and Vegetable Fair held at the Department of Parks and Gardens attracted producers, agro-input distributors, transporters, financial institutions, cold storage service providers, exporters, importers, insurance service providers, and aggregators of fresh fruits and vegetables in a grand style.

The event provided an exceptional opportunity for these stakeholders to network, exchange ideas, and explore potential collaborations that can help drive the growth and development of the fruit and vegetable industry in Ghana.

Speaking at the event the Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, H.E. Jeroen Verheul, highlighted the long-standing partnership between the Netherlands and Ghanaian horticultural farmers and entrepreneurs. Emphasizing that the horticultural sector is a crucial contributor to Ghana’s economic growth.

There are three key reasons to strengthen the horticulture partnership: promoting economic growth, improving diets, and creating more job opportunities.

Economic growth

The agricultural sector is important for the Ghanaian economy. Almost 20% of the GDP is linked to agriculture (GSS, 2022) and accounts for over 30% of export earnings (FAO, 2023).

Both for the domestic and the export markets, the horticultural value chain plays a significant role in the economy and the sector is growing on average by 10%. Compared to the average of 3.3% of the broader agricultural sector, the market opportunities in vegetable and fruit production are significant.

Currently, Ghana is mainly producing tomato, pepper, onions, and okra but also many of these products are being imported from surrounding countries, mainly originating from Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon, and Togo.

Ghana only produces 5 percent of the onions it consumes locally and there are indications that the Kumasi and Accra markets alone already import 120 million dollars worth of fresh and dry onions (RVO, 2021).

In total, Ghana is importing 3.4 billion dollars in mainly processed agrifoods. The shifting security situation in the Sahel is occasionally putting pressure on some of those imports, as we have seen with haltering trade flows of Nigerien onions and Burkinabé tomatoes.

This poses a challenge for Ghana as the average intake of fresh vegetables by Ghanaians is already relatively small compared to its regional neighbors.

Improved diets
The Global Nutrition Report indicated that the consumption of vegetables in Ghana is only 46% of the recommended amount for healthy living.

On average, a person should consume a minimum of 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day (FAO/WHO).

In Ghana not even the intake of 200 grams is currently being met. This is partially caused by the relatively high prices of vegetables and fruit.

The Ghana Living Standards Survey indicated that 13% of total food expenditure is going to vegetables, mainly tomatoes (36%), onions (19%) and chilies (10%). One important way to tackle high food prices is to start producing more, and more efficiently.

That is why the Netherlands is joining forces with initiatives all over Ghana that maximize horticultural production as well as reduce the cost of production.

Key areas of attention are the development of sustainable crop value chains, improving access to markets and access to finance, the training of farmers on good agricultural practices and entrepreneurial skills, and finally access to new and improved fruit and vegetable varieties.

More production leads to growth of the sector, leading to a higher demand for agricultural services and growth of the value chain.

Increasing employment
In Ghana, the agricultural sector is the largest employer, providing jobs to about 36% of the country’s population, which is roughly 11 million people out of the total 31 million Ghanaians. However, a significant portion of these workers are involved in small-scale farming activities.

Currently, 77% of the 11 million are considered to be subsistence farmers (FAO). The governments of Ghana and the Netherlands share the perspective that this should be different.

It is widely acknowledged that small and medium enterprises form the backbone of the economy. They lead to economic growth, industrialization, and the creation of jobs.

That is why the Netherlands is partnering with a large group of stakeholders, including the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, on supporting the Ghanaian food system, growing it into an environment where horticultural farmers and entrepreneurs can thrive.

That is why the Netherlands is working together with the Kwadaso Agricultural College, the Technical University of Delft, and Dutch company Holland Greentech on improving horticultural curricula, introducing courses focused on farming as a business.

East West Seed Knowledge Transfer is currently training 12,000 farmers in the Ashanti and Western regions on the use of good agricultural practices and the use of quality hybrid seeds.

Several initiatives in the Netherlands are looking at providing up-to-date weather data for open-field farmers to increase productivity and introduce digital solutions in the horticultural value chain.

The jobs created will lead to more income, more companies, more jobs, better quality and nutritious food, enabled through win-win partnerships. An example of that partnership can be seen at the opening of the Fruit and Vegetable Fair, organized for the seventh time, this time by the recently founded Horticultural Business Platform (HBP).

This new organization is a platform for farmers, cooperatives, governments, entrepreneurs, knowledge institutes, Ghanaian and Dutch private sector, and development partners to come together.

The platform will build bridges, facilitate partnerships, and provide firsthand information on the needs of the sector. Stakeholders interested in the HBP can send an email to info@gnbcc.net for more information.

As Ghana is moving beyond aid, the Netherlands is investing in deepening the partnership on trade and investment between the countries.

The Netherlands is the second agricultural exporter in the world, in absolute terms, exporting for 105 billion euro which around 1.3 trillion cedi’s is every year.

Of this amount, 160 billion cedis is exported in fruits and vegetables. We have agricultural consumer products to offer, but also planting materials, innovative technologies, experience, expertise and so much more that can help Ghana to make the required leap forward in the horticulture sector. From this perspective of partnership, the future of horticulture in Ghana looks bright.

The Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Yaw Frimpong Addo, also highlighted the fruit and vegetable sub-sector’s pivotal role in elevating Ghana’s economy and securing a substantial market share within the African continent.

The Deputy Minister stressed a need for collaboration, increased business sector investment, and effective government policies to foster growth in this industry.

“With a focus on the AfCFTA, Ghana’s Non-Traditional Exports (NTEs) experienced a remarkable 17% increase, reaching US$ 3.33 billion according to the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) 2022 annual report.

As Ghana’s non-traditional exports, especially fruit and vegetables, hold great potential in the European Union market, the AfCFTA offers promising opportunities for market access within the continent and investment prospects that can enhance intra-African trade alongside the existing EU market,” he stated.

The Deputy Minister therefore underscored the need for collaboration, increased business sector investment, and effective government policies to foster growth in this industry.

The 7th Ghana Fruit and Vegetables Fair demonstrated the sector’s remarkable resilience and growth, positioning Ghana for substantial economic transformation and AfCFTA opportunities. The clear, overarching message conveyed was that collaboration, investment, and strategic policy direction are critical in unlocking the sector’s full potential.

Source: Isaac Kofi Dzokpo/newsghana.com.gh

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