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General News Fri, 30 Nov 2001

Agriculture growth rate expected to hit 15% by 2004 -Quashigah

Ghana's agricultural growth is expected to rise from 2.1 percent in 2000 to 15 per cent by 2004, Food and Agriculture Minister, Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), said on Thursday.

He said this was premised on the successful implementation of a proactive agro-business strategy that focuses on improving access to land and promoting marketing, storage and transportation systems to reduce price volatility and minimising production risk, particularly those stemming from post-harvest losses.

Maj. Quashigah said this when addressing a one-day national consultative workshop on the development of Ghana's agro-industries sub-sector organised by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and the African Development Bank (ADB) in Accra.

The workshop, the last in a series held nationwide, was organised for stakeholders, researchers and the country's agro-processing partners to brainstorm on the current food situation to determine the feasibility of developing the agro-industries sub-sector.

The first workshop was held in May while the second was held in September. It also seeks to review a feasibility study undertaken by MASDAR

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International Consultants of the UK contracted by the government to review agro-industries for major food and industrial crops produced in the country and to prepare a programme to improve the situation, focusing primarily on national capacity building and institutional strengthening.

Maj. Quashigah said efforts at national development would not be complete if adequate attention was not paid to the development of the rural areas where more than 60 per cent of the people live.

He said since agriculture was the major economic activity in the rural setting, meaningful efforts at rural development should tackle the development of agriculture and its related activities.

The Minister said development of the rural environment would be a catalyst for the transformation of the national economy and the drive to economic maturity.

He expressed the hope that the designs of the projects and programmes of the study to be presented by the consultants would generate employment, especially for the rural youth.

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Maj Quashigah said such projects would receive the sympathy of the government as its strategy for improving food production and generating gainful employment was based on the creation of an enabling environment for improved private sector participation in production.

He said the government sought to facilitate private sector entrepreneurship in both agriculture and industry by promoting land administration reforms to improve security of land tenure by addressing land title and security.

The government was also committed to providing incentives, including tax breaks, to attract investors in agriculture and agro-industries and would support and encourage agro-industries targeted at both domestic and export markets.

MASDAR's study was carried out in two phases. The first that ran from January to June 2001 was a diagnosis of the current situation to identify opportunities and constraints. The second was started in August. The consultancy firm put together a multi-skilled 11-man team to carry out the project.

The team has finished investigating a selection of private sector investment opportunities and has developed a number of spreadsheet models to assist with its appraisal. The team has also identified two public sector projects.

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Among the project models are a tomatoes paste processing industry, gari production and Volta River tilapia farming and maize/soya bean production and processing and seed multiplication of rice and cotton.

The Team Leader, Mr Colin Watson, told the workshop participants that for the models to make a significant impact, entrepreneurs have to compete for finance with other countries because a lot had to be done to impress investors.

He said for the designed models to work, other issues like tax holidays and incentives would have to be considered to attract investors, adding that it was important that skilled workers were considered for its success.

Source: .