Cocoa set the tone for what has become a hugely profitable local agric sector today. Despite recent flirtations with other commodities, however the clout- or more appropriately, leaning towards cocoa is legendary.
Agriculture in Ghana encompasses a variety of agricultural products and is a vital area that supports the economy through the provision of formal and informal employment for millions of Ghanaians.
With different climatic conditions that support the production of a variety of crops, Ghana also liberally produces yams, grains, oil palms, kola nuts, timber etc.
Decades ago, Under British colonial rule, Ghana’s agriculture took flight with an increasing demand for her premium cocoa beans. Then a flourishing economy, Ghana took full advantage of the colossal demand for her premium cocoa beans and soon became the world’s largest exporter of cocoa in 1911.
This quick-fire impact largely attributable to a seething vision to make agriculture the bedrock of the economy was well received by many Ghanaians as cocoa farming easily became the mainstay of the nation.
Buoyed further by the uncommon vision of the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana hinged her development roadmap firmly on cocoa cultivation. Under the tellingly ambitious regime of the late Kwame Nkrumah, the government worked sedulously to make cocoa the undisputed king of foreign exchange for Ghana.
COCOA IS PARAMOUNT
Despite losing its place as the world’s largest exporter of cocoa to neighbours, Cote d’ivoire, the commodity remains firmly entrenched as the country’s primary agricultural export-sharing export prominence with gold-and recently, crude oil.
Today, Cocoa is predominantly grown in woody areas of Ghana: Ashanti Region, Brong-Ahafo Region, Central Region, Eastern Region, Western Region, and Volta Region. The crops harvest season begins in October while the smaller mid-crop cycle starts in July.
Influenced by a significant governmental clout in the running of the sub-sector, the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) directly oversees the sub-sectors development through positive initiatives tailored to increase farm productivity and consequently, foreign exchange earnings. Today, Ghana is ranked just a notch behind Cote d’ivoire raking in a $1,914 per metric ton (2204.6 lbs. $.868/lbs) in 2017.
Fast-forward several years, population increase and a subsequent strain on infrastructure and other allied benefits has led to calls to place more emphasis on the exploration of other commodities that have shown tangible promise in their ability to net home significant foreign exchange to supplement the benefits derivable form cocoa, gold and oil. Thankfully, experimentation with chief industrial crops palm oil, cotton, rubber, sugar cane, tobacco has shown great promise with a significant record of foreign exchange attributable to these.
Lending a voice to this narrative slant Dr. Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture Development asserts that the country is set to make billions of dollars ($12b) from other tree crops aside cocoa following the successful implementation of the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD).
According to Mr Akoto, The Agric Ministry in collaboration with the Local Government and Rural Development Ministry has launched an ambitious programme to diversify the country’s agricultural export capacity to include other tree crops with equal economic values as cocoa.
Under the policy, six major tree crops namely Coconut, Rubber, Cashew, Oil Palm, Coffee and Shea, is expected to rake in over Twelve Billion Dollars in export earnings.
He projects that the six tree crops have the potential to outperform cocoa and consequently vary the country’s economy support base by reversing the over-reliance on only cocoa as the chief export commodity.
“The Ghana Beyond Aid vision can only be achieved if we are able to increase our agricultural export capacity, this is what we hope to do through the PERD programme.
The six crops combined can each fetch us $2 billion in terms of exporting the raw materials alone and this does not include value addition” the Minister stated at a recent Cocoa Value Chain Summit organised by pan African bank, Ecobank in Accra.
The PERD is one of the modules of government’s agricultural flagship policy Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ). Other programmes include Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ) which is the livestock component, Agricultural Mechanization Centres (AMSEC) and Greenhouse Villages Initiative.
Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto said millions of seedlings had been nursed and were being distributed to farmers at the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) as part of the PERD programme.
The Minister also highlighted a number of programmes which have been put in place by government to enhance the revenue earned from cocoa, including the proposed establishment of a $100 million cocoa processing factory at Sefwi Wiawso to add value to raw cocoa.
The Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) Programme is a decentralized National Tree Crop Programme to promote rural economic growth and improve household incomes of rural farmers through the provision of certified improved seedlings, extension services, business support and regulatory mechanisms.
To create a legacy towards the realization of the Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda, the Government of Ghana through the joint effort by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Ministry of Food and Agriculture rolled out the PERD programme to develop nine (9) commodity value chains namely Cashew, Coffee, Cotton Coconut, Citrus, Oil Palm, Mango, Rubber and Shea through a decentralized system.
The programme seeks to create sustainable raw material base to spur up the decentralized industrialization drive through One District Factory initiative. The 5-year PERD programme will support 1million farmers in 170 districts with certified free planting materials to cover over one (1) million hectares of farmlands and engage 10,000 young graduates as crop specialized extension officers.
Aside from the benefit of a diversified revenue base for Ghana, PERD will link agriculture to industry by providing a solid raw material base for industrialization will also help develop rural economies and support the structural transformation of the economy.
According to a 2018 World Bank report dubbed “The Third Economic Update, Agriculture as an Engine of Growth and Jobs Creation”, the agriculture sector has the potential to open the floodgates of transformative growth for other sectors of the economy if the inputs of other viable commodities are properly harnessed.
It is increasingly clear that we can do more for Ghana through agriculture. Agriculture is an important contributor to Ghana’s export earnings, and a major source of inputs for the manufacturing sector today. It is also true that we are yet to see the seismic impact that we are capable of. This policy provides a fantastic opportunity for stakeholders to perhaps push the sector farther and further close to its potential. The success stories from the continent and elsewhere points to a bright future for Ghana if we follow through with plans to give other crops a genuine chance to compete cocoa. Ultimately, Ghana will be the biggest beneficiary.