Business News of 2014-06-10

Market access core driver of investments – AGRA Boss

Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (AGRA) says farmers' access to markets is the core driver of investments, as its Market Access Programme is inching to the end of its first phase.

Mrs. Anne Mbaabu, Director of AGRA's Market Access Programme, in an interview with the media after the opening of a West Africa grantees meeting in Accra recently, stressed that markets were the key factors that drive investments.

The meeting was on the theme: 'Developing and Sharing Effective and Inclusive Market Interventions for Smallholder Farmers.'

She said markets were more important to agriculture as farmers have to compete with each other, middlemen, importers and others in the value chain. “Our agriculture in Africa is rain fed and as a result we face a lot of challenges that other countries that are working with irrigations don't face, so our competitiveness is not as high as theirs,” she added.

The meeting was held to take stock and review the progress of the different projects, identify challenges and lessons learnt in order to inform the next phase of the Market Access Programme. It is one of the key programmes of AGRA with the objective to increase incomes and reduce poverty by promoting efficient, well-functioning markets that will create market linkages for millions of smallholder African farmers.

According to a summary report released during the meeting, Africa's smallholder farmers have been unable to realise profitable returns on their investments due to high post-harvest losses, high transport costs, limited access to finance and lack of market information and inappropriate policies. The report noted that since 2010, the programme has developed a significant and diverse portfolio of grants in West Africa. Currently, 16 projects are active in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

AGRA therefore works to overcome the challenges by developing rural marketplaces, commodity exchanges, warehousing systems and milling operations. These are all designed to assure higher returns to farmer investments, connecting farmers to regional markets and creating alternative markets for crops as well as animal feeds and food processing operations, and promoting enabling legal and policy frameworks.

Hon. Clement Kofi Humado, Minister for Food and Agriculture, stated that since 2007, Ghana is proud to partner AGRA in the implementation of practical programmes for smallholder farmers that fulfil the vision that Africa can feed itself and the world because “we have the land and the climate.”

Mr. Humado noted that an appropriate technology, commitment and leadership were needed to revolutionise agriculture. “We in Ghana also believe that by investing in agriculture through stronger partnerships is the surest path to reducing poverty and hunger in Africa,” he said. He indicated that Ghana was one of the priority countries benefiting from several AGRA interventions, including the Market Access Programme.