The International Food Policy Research Institute, in collaboration with the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), on Monday opened a four-week Entrepreneurial course to enhance the skills and competences of agribusiness managers.
The course, which was supported by the University of Ghana, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmadabad and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, would equip participants with start-up knowledge, business management principles, policy issues and sound environmental practices.
Mr Clement Kofi Humado, Minister of Food and Agriculture, said this would provide both new and existing operators with an exclusive understanding of the operations of the agribusiness sector so that they would be able to respond effectively to the needs of the sub-sector.
He said like other African countries, Ghana was promoting the commercialization of the agricultural sector not only to ensure food security but also to ensure good practices in agribusiness management.
This is a vital component for a successful commercial agriculture and efficient functioning of the value chain in the food and fibre sector, he said.
He said the country currently possessed a wide range of agro products that were exported in their raw state however, opportunities existed in the agro-processing sector for manufacturing industries to add value to local agricultural products such as cocoa, cashew, tropical fruits and vegetables.
Mr Humado said the agribusiness sector was currently transforming the production, processing and marketing of tree crop products such as cocoa, coffee and rubber, as well as food crops, livestock and fisheries products.
He said the Northern Rural Growth Project, the Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Project and the Export Marketing and Quality Awarness Project among others had been implemented by the Ministry and had several components to deal with value chain and agribusiness development.
He, however, cautioned operators of the sector to strictly observe environmental principles as they aimed towards their profit motives, adding “the profit motives in agribusiness should not lead us to externalities that destroy the environment through illegal and environmentally unfriendly practices”.
Mr Humado said profit, growth and productivity were also not enough to make agribusiness work for development and often initiatives aimed at stimulating those factors could harm more than they helped.
He considered the rush for lands for other agribusiness purposes as a dicey situation which, he said, could threaten livelihoods and food security as farmers produce crops for the market and not for their own consumption.
“In pursuit of agribusiness we must not make food less nutritious and pollute water reserves,” he said adding that their initiatives should promote sustainable growth.
Mr Humado said the Ministry had intervened in several critical areas to support the private sector to establish rice mills, cassava graters, tomato paste factories, pack houses, grains warehouses and other post harvest facilities that were critical to the development of agribusinesses in Ghana.
He said: “The agricultural landscape in Ghana now boasts of several value chains and partnerships and Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) have been targeted for extension services, research and innovation development, and for post harvest and agricultural mechanization”.
Mr Humado cited a PPP like the Sorghum Value Chain Development Project which was being sponsored by the European Cooperative for Rural Development with Guinness Ghana Breweries Ltd (GGBL) as the Private Sector and TechnoServe as the implementing partner.
He said the overall goal was to develop a stable and high-quality sorghum supply chain that would increase incomes of farmers and enable GGBL to substitute imported grains with locally produced sorghum.
Inspite of these developments, the agribusiness still faces challenges such as loans from financial institutions and land acquisition for business set ups and expansion.
“Ghana, therefore, needs to improve upon its banking and financial services to drive agribusiness,” he said.
Mr Humado gave the assurance that the Ministry was working towards the development of a database and information on agribusiness as well as the development of key agribusiness infrastructure such as irrigation schemes, farm access roads and potable drinking water to farming areas to drive agro-industry in Ghana.
Dr Joseph Taabazuing, Course Co-ordinator, urged participants to be committed to the programme in order to reap its full benefits.