A very Good Afternoon Respected Dignitaries, His Excellency the Vice President Honourable Dr Bawumia, Honourable Regional Minister and the Ministers office Representatives, FAGRO representatives, Agro Industry Players, Emerging Farmers and Producers; Representatives of Agricultural Unions; Officials from all spheres of Government; Association of Ghana Industry reps, Respected members of the media Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am Fatima Alimohamed, the Vice Chairperson of the Association Of Ghana Industries Agriculture Sector and the CEO of African Brand Warrior. I fly the flag for the African Continent and stand infront of you alive today thanks to the farmers who put food on my table.
I am honoured and delighted for the opportunity to step in on behalf of the AGI CEO for the launch of the FAGRO 8th Edition of the National Food and Agric show whose focus is Northern Ghana, a region we all know is the bread basket of supplying most of the Nations food products to the commercial markets in the south.
I extend a warm welcome to all the participants and pray that we maximise this opportunity through constructive dialogue and communication to arrive at a commitment to create a sustainable front with the capacity to influence policies through lobbying and advocacy. We are grateful to FAGRO for providing this platform.
We cannot predict the outcome of human development. All we can do is like a farmer; create the conditions under which it will begin to flourish. We invariably find that we all share common goals, and that when we listen to each other with open minds we can resolve any differing views. We must all arrive at the big question of how can we take part in this process and support the decision makers in the various programs launched by the Government, such as the Planting for Food and the One district and One factory for this is in the interest of this Nation and the Soil we call our motherland.
In 1956 when various African countries began to seek independence, the continent was self-sufficient, food secure and on the whole, a net exporter of food. Today, Africa is mostly hungry and it is the most food-insecure Continent. It is instead a net importer building other Countries industries instead of our own.
This situation is getting worse not better. In the Millennium Declaration the world's governments promised to halve hunger by 2015, we are now in 2016 and have the Sustainable Development Goals now facing us for another 15 years. The fact is there are now more people living with constant hunger than there were when the promise was made. Developmental Goals are derived from an aspect of moving from a historical perspective to a better change. Historically we were known to have chickens and cows in our backyards for meats and milk. But instead of developing forward we moved backwards.
We chose to be import dependant for our milk and meats leading us today to suffer from the diseases that used to be known as the rich man’s disease - Cancer – to now a disease we hear of so often on the Continent and in Ghana due to the antibiotic and chemically dressed foods in order to withstand the long journeys on high seas to get to us.
This utter failure on our part to even reduce hunger, let alone halve it, is a condemnation of existing international and national government policies on agriculture and food security. Change is needed and it is needed fast and the focus on Agriculture programmes by the Government has come in at the perfect time. It is commendable and we must support it. It is vital that farmers and producers have a voice in determining policies that affect their own lives on fundamental issues. They bring a wealth of knowledge, understanding of local contexts and diversity of ideas.
Whilst, the Government has given its full support and backing to Agriculture, we in the agric sector and the populace at large must endevour to do all we can to support the initiatives and ensure that the attitudes and mindsets of the common man also changes to make this a success. Sowing the seeds in the minds first will help the journey that will lead to sustainable, poverty alleviating jobs being created.
Ghana’s trade imbalance continues to widen up with massive imports as against limited export trade. An example is the imports of rice at close to 600,000mtns against our own 150,000mtns or Tomato Paste at close to 12000mtns in the first quarter yet whilst our tomatoes rot. The situation is a pivotal contributory factor to the craze for major international trading currencies, translating into the past recurrently depreciating cedi. Export earnings in the country are heavily dependent on cocoa and a few largely unprocessed commodities. We need to diversify into other crops.
Unfortunately agriculture in most countries in Africa is substantially under-performing relative to its potential, and Ghana is no exception. This is mainly due to a lack of investment in the sector in terms of infrastructure, technological and human resource development, and the sustained growth of biological and physical capital. As we embark on the One District One factory path, we must aim to have the various stakeholders as shareholders in the factories to ensure the benefits of the full value chain of what I call the ‘Soil to Pot’ Journey. If a farmer is a shareholder, he then knows his role in ensuring that he doesn't outprice his raw material as ultimately the success of the factory is in his hand too. By making everyone in the value chain a shareholder we build a larger community of entrepreneurs. This is also a great way to engage the youth who are today’s agripreneurs. Have them come on board with their technologically savvy know how and watch the transformation to modern farming yield results. Great examples exist based on the principle of a sufficient economy, which is what Thailand was built on.
The Government has shown that agriculture is a priority and has the intention to see a visible growth of the agric sector as a percentage of the GDP. As per the budget, Agriculture sector recorded a growth of 3.6% in 2016 against a 3.5% target the same year, however the services sector continue to be the larger contributor with 54% to the GDP in 2016 whilst Agric’s contribution to the economy dropped from 23% in 2012 to 20% in 2016. This is sad when we compare to the 70% bracket in the 80’s and 90’s.
Africa Centre for Economic Transformation (Feb. 2015) reports that in 2013 the highest agricultural export earner was cashew nuts and oil seeds, accounting for more than half of the US$306.11 million worth of fresh agricultural product exports and cashew is the highest non-traditional export earner.
God looked down at all he created and said he needed a caretaker for this world so he made the farmer. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops such as rice, palm, cocoa or cashew, but the civilization and perfection of human beings. We have a moral obligation to our fellow citizens. There are a large variety of agricultural crops cultivated here in the country with enormous economic usefulness, but they are yet to catch the attention for the needed support to unearth their full-scale potentials. One such crop is the Cashew Nuts.
Ghana can emerge to rival Brazil, India and Vietnam as a premier exporter of processed nuts. It is said when a person gets treated like a patient, they are apt to become one. This is what the situation is like at the moment. We have 13 processing plants of which 10 are shut down. We are happy to report that finally our push to have a public private partnership 10year development plan has finally got its wings with a signed MOU between Ghana Export Promotion Authority and the Cashew Industry Association of Ghana and has the full support of the Ministry of Agriculture.
It was also said; investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security is a golden step to Ghana's development. Ultimately a nation that cannot feed itself will always be hostage to the interests of those who feed it.
Africa’s population is expected to increase to 2 billion by 2050 if current demographic conditions remain constant indicating that future demand for agriculture production will be immensely larger than it is at present. In short, Africa and more so Ghana needs to double its overall production to meet the future needs of its population. Our focus needs to be on other emerging crops other than Cocoa. The growth of Indonesia and China in terms of cocoa consumption has led Indonesia to revisit their strategy on Cocoa and they are on a mission as a Country to double their capacities. Indonesia grew almost no cocoa before the early 1980s, when production took off like a rocket. Now it is the world’s third leading producer of cocoa beans. Whilst back here at home our cocoa sector is facing certain setbacks. Incomes of cocoa farmers are being undermined by the then depreciation of the Ghana cedi apart from other issues. We may soon be left disappointed when the carpet is swept from our under our feet and we have no other crop to depend on.
The Cashew, Palm, Fruit and Cash crop Industry is critical for sustainable development and poverty reduction, and growth in this sector can be a powerful means of achieving inclusive growth and still holds much promise and potential. The One District Once factory plus the Planting for food and jobs will spiral productivity and rural employment that can offer increased income to the poor and provide food security and income diversification to the vulnerable communities.
It is said once in our life, we need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman and ofcourse a preacher. But everyday we need a farmer and when a farmer is poor, so is the whole Nation. To those that work in acres and hectares and not in hours … we thank you.
In conclusion: -
Let the farmers continue to farm
Let Government continue to govern; and
Let Industry provide investment and markets.
So far, we seem to be on the right path and journey.
Wishing all of us a very fruitful exchange of views.
God bless Ghana and God Bless our farmer and land.