Improving Ghana’s market opportunities and export development

Ghana has made a lot of strides in the development of trade as it gears towards becoming a middle income country by 2015.

No one can lose sight of the fact that the country is party to a number of international accords that focused on farmers who are important playing roles  in bringing the country to satisfactory economic heights.

As to whether these accords have influenced trade is debatable but their very existence is crucial so long as international trade and market access is concerned.

The trade negotiation has for instance promoted the agricultural subsidies that farmers enjoy today. Increase in food and fertiliser prices have been the underlining factors for the introduction of fertiliser subsidy as a way of supporting farmers to have easy access to the essential commodity to increase productivity.

For sometime now, farmers throughout the country and particularly in the northern part of Ghana are enjoying tremendous assistance in the fertiliser subsidy to improve farm yields and increase acreages under cultivation.

Testimonies of the farmers who benefited from this support proved that the intervention came as a relief considering their level of poverty.

They could not have been able to pay the cost of these inputs if they were buying direct from the markets especially when they were hit by floods that washed their farms away.

Initiatives like the subsidies, provide us as a country the opportunity to secure improved market support, competitive production as well as export development.

One result of these negotiations is the ECOWAS trade Liberation Scheme (ETLS), which came into being in January 1990, and aims at establishing a customs union among member states to facilitate the total elimination of customs duties, taxes and removal of non tariff barriers.

In the words of Ms Hannah Tetteh, Minister of Trade and Industry, at a workshop of stakeholders, “the government, fully recognises that trading rules have direct impact on Ghana’s development especially in the context of globalisation”.

In this regard, government will continue to participate in negotiations at the bilateral, regional and multilateral trade levels to ensure that Ghana’s national interest are secured and that trade rules provide the best opportunities for the country’s development, she said.

There are still concerns about food security, how farmers produce excessive food that remained on their farms at the mercy of the weather due to lack of market.

There is more to do to help the farmers access the necessary infrastructure and technology for production and to penetrate the market of the European Union (EU).

There is also the essence for the farmers to go beyond the receiving of  subsidies in terms of fertiliser and move to infrastructural and technology advancement that would enable them to produce in bulk and be able to market them.

It is no hidden truth that the West African countries going into the ETLS have huge poverty problems to tackle.

To export into the EU there are many rules, regulations and stipulations to comply with, which include observance of expiry dates. The handicap of the farmers is not because they are unable to access these facilities or because they are not producing much food, but because they cannot meet the benchmark, couple with inadequate preparation of the responsible sectors to meet the high competition out there.

Absence of infrastructure to enable farmers produce as a block and get on board the market chain, bad packaging of products, poor quality of produce and finance are the major neck breaking problems confronting the agriculture sector and until these problems are solved, unfair competition would continue to be on the menu.

Mr Emmanuel Akuna, National Co-ordinator, Youth in Agriculture Block Farming Programme of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has noted that farmers were supported with farm inputs that were highly subsidised to attract the youth into the programme.

However, the more than 800 farmers, who benefited under the block farming were slapped with challenges such as floods, lack of market and storage facilities.

The Export Development and Investment Fund is making tremendous strides to boost business activities in Ghana by providing funds for export trade. Again beneficiaries of these facilities have to go through difficulties before accessing funds.

The policy position of the Ministry of Trade and Industry as a driver in these negotiations is to ensure these benchmarks are achieved.

The potential of the ETLS is very strong especially in the marketing of the countries agricultural produce but there is need for stakeholders in the regional trade to ensure that the huge information and knowledge gaps that exist among non state actors about free movement of goods and services are addressed.

Continuous subjection of exporters into tight corners for the “Small chops” or “Noko fio”, such that even if one has done the right thing, one is still made to dip his hands into his pockets, is frustrating a lot of business people.

The enticing nature of trade arrangements and the subsequent frustrations that accompany them need to be considered seriously.

There is need to look back and assess the impact of these accords to ensure that concessions made to agricultural sector yield fruits.

Farmers should be made to assess the impact of the relief not because they are able to increase the acreage of their farms, but have enough to eat, supply and sell and have some stored for future use, then we would be talking about food security.

As Ms Katty Addy, a private consultant on Economic issues says, “Ghana’s interest must be identified and properly defined.

What is best for the people and the State of Ghana should be the primary consideration when we sit to negotiate with any country in the world, especially on matters of international trade.

This is what developed and the fast growing developing countries do.

Source: GNA

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