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Opinions Fri, 14 Feb 2020

Ghanaian farmers can now serve you even better! Here’s why

Farming and Agribusiness are back in vogue!

Something is definitely up there when of all the choices available to him, famous actor and political aspirant John Dumelo opts to be a large-scale farmer. That’s because he gets it. That’s because he knows that by growing farm produce for both human and animal consumption, he taps into an agricultural sector that contributes to almost 20% of Ghana’s gross domestic product (GDP).

In 2009, that figure was 30.99%. The inevitable rise of industry and the incorporation of formal business models into every scalable enterprise brought boundless opportunity for every business sector. Ghanaian farmers get that even more now. The 2010 Population & Housing Census revealed that, even though agricultural households accounted for 54.2% of the total population, a large number of the members of those households lacked formal education.

That situation is vastly different now.

Agriculture continues to marry Business Models

Today, I know medical doctors, professionals in tech, and yes even most famed actors who are heavily into farming or agribusiness because they understand what happens when agriculture marries business models properly.

It is the pursuit of that marriage that impels our nation’s General Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU) of Ghana’s Trade Union Congress (TUC), founded in 1959, to appoint me as their first-ever Business Advisor to the collective whose members are tens of thousands strong. I have always found labour unions remarkable in their ability to facilitate growth and welfare by quite easily demonstrating the popular adage of the whole being much larger than the sum of the individual parts.

From Far to Fork

I am not and will not be involved in wage negotiations, employee benefits nor anything remotely in that line. My mandate is to expedite business momentum and trade. My network and I will be providing real business opportunities, real business solutions and not excuses. Maxwell Investments Group and its affiliates like our trading subsidiary, TAFT Commodities (est. 2006), already incorporate many of these into our supply-chain enabling activities while we endeavour to take harvests all the way from farm to fork.

Farmers get a bigger win when they are aware of basic economic concepts like turnover and value chain. So just like how a grain of soya bean takes calculated steps to becoming nutritious soy milk, Ghana farmers are finally getting there. I have witnessed it. For instance, coffee bean farmers in the Akuapem area are utilising the commodity as a catalyst for rapid rural development under budding companies like Asili and it’s beautiful.

Ghana’s farmers are better positioned now to engage you because they are adopting Trade Facilitation principles and guidelines that will continue to serve them very well.

Trade Facilitation

The main goal of our Trade Facilitation efforts is to get farmers to export more in a faster, safer, more affordable and more standardised way. Imagine your local farmers effortlessly trading with global markets, moving a majority of their harvests for exports. The processes require some degree of simplification for the average farmer to comprehend the formalities, documentation and other complexities of the export-import markets.

We do what it takes.

This is happening now in Ghana. Farmers are seeking to have more of the available rewards on the whole value chain. It is not without its challenges. As farmers try to shy from “middlemen” who negotiate deals that have more of the available margins tilted towards them, many have been forced through countless disappointments and setbacks to have a healthy appreciation for the formal safeguards that protect exporters.

As Business Advisor to GAWU, I have heard many tales, even recently, of financial losses that I feel may have been averted if only these farmers understood the different avenues available to them.

I keep telling them, “You have to address what happens IF you’ve done your part well and they still say no; with your capital stuck in these exports, you are going to be negotiated down regardless of your CAD agreements”, and this happens to them a lot.

These unpleasant conversations are always necessary to open farmers’ eyes to the fact that they have the power to negotiate for better payment terms and delivery requirements through the insertion of clauses that address these loopholes. Many importers respect farmers that demand for reciprocity of quality delivery. This is because by demanding for reciprocated value, you prove your competency and knowhow to deliver in the first place.

Nonetheless, Ghanaian Farmers continue to build a strong capacity to tap into foreign markets by adopting these four (4) principles of our Trade Facilitation efforts with them:

• Standardisation

• Harmonisation

• Simplification

• Transparency

Standardisation

Standardisation is one of the first steps towards Trade Facilitation. If you’ve been to the typical community market in Ghana, you’d know the only modus operandi is that there is no modus operandi; it’s all about how well you bargain and outsiders usually get crushed. For cash crops, Ghanaian farmers are moving towards readily accepting standardisation guidelines.

Standardisation is the creation of the framework of a set of agreements on trading parameters to which all parties of an industry, local and abroad, must adhere. This is to make sure that all the processes within said industry associated with the production of goods and services are done within the agreed-upon working parameters.

Ghana Cocoa Board is one of the best examples of how a regulatory body can so well standardise the growing and trading of a cash crop. Standardisation efforts by our local farmers are painting a familiar picture to importers outside, thus creating the trust and encourage for trade participation.

Harmonisation

After the creation of working frameworks of agreed trading parameters, farmers in Ghana are understanding that all these should mimic and mirror how things are done in other countries within the international trading community as well.

Conversation moves along much more smoothly when responses are filled with “oh yes that’s how we also do it in our country”. Cashew farmers in Ghana are starting to accept the need to adopt harmonisation at a faster pace, in an effort to match the high sales and production levels in neighbouring countries like the Ivory Coast, where a lot of the action happens. Harmonisation also helps local markets to easily pick up best industry practices from the best-competing markets.

Simplification

So, a corporate language is created and understood by all stakeholders in the Ghanaian agricultural sector, home and abroad, through Standardisation. That corporate language needs to mimic that which is spoken by others in the same trade in other countries, and this is done by way of Harmonisation.

What next… WE KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Simplification is where we eliminate useless bureaucracy and duplication of procedures from the trading processes. Any and all unnecessary elements that doesn’t add value, but stifles momentum and ease of flow will hinder our Trade Facilitation efforts.

Transparency

I am even more honoured by my appointment as Business Advisor to GAWU because farmers are amongst the most sceptical of people I have ever met in my life. Having access to these farmers and agribusiness stakeholders have reintroduced me to the value of building goodwill and social capital.

They don’t just demand my trustworthiness. They expect it from the government, from the importers, and from you reading this as a stakeholder in Ghana’s agricultural sector. When they have access to the right information and data, aid and other enabling elements, it emboldens their steps to reach much higher than they would have.

Regulatory information should be made public, easily accessible and well disseminated. How do you trade efficiently when at every step, some laws you were not made aware of keep popping up? It gets frustrating and drains the enthusiasm for the Agric sector when aid and other formal programs aimed at helping these farmers are put beyond their reach.

Farming and Agribusiness is back in vogue and Ghanaian Farmers can now serve you even better!

Everybody’s jumping in now. There have been millionaires tapping into funding aimed at helping the small-scale farmer because these guys are aware of such aid and have the knowhow to be eligible for and access it, whereas information dissemination efforts in rural Ghana have some more work to do.

Good business is about structure. With good structure comes rapid replicability, then easily follows scalability. As the first-ever Business Advisor to the General Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU) of Ghana’s Trade Union Congress (TUC), the onus is on me to add to the innovative solutions and opportunities that local farmers and agricultural stakeholders require to take their next big step.

Already outlined here are how these farmers are adopting our Trade Facilitation principles of Standardisation, Harmonisation, Simplification and Transparency.

It’s an exciting time for agribusinesses and for you to do business with Ghanaian farmers!

Featured Today

Farming and agribusiness ay? d? in Ghana!

Our one and only Prep Prefect, Stephen Odartefio and I attended Achimota Secondary School way before Snapchat filters was a thing. He proceeded to Asheshi University and got a Computer Science Degree. He even had an impressive stint at Goldman Sachs as a Research Analyst. He is now the Head of Strategy, Research & Agribusiness Development at IESO Agribusiness Consult.

IESO Agribusiness Consult has developed a platform for African start-ups and young entrepreneurs in agribusinesses to pitch innovative ideas and business models addressing key areas related to the typical inefficiencies and vulnerabilities in the agriculture sector. Their flagship project is named the AgroMinds Africa Challenge.

Apply now for this challenge and stand a chance to access more than $50,000 in equity financing. In addition, you get to receive technical guidance and coaching and also gain some market visibility for your business models to attract more investment capital along the road.

This is one of the many innovative initiatives that competent companies and skilled stakeholders like IESO Agribusiness Consult and Stephen are championing to unlock Africa’s agribusiness potential by leveraging on the huge youthful entrepreneurial potential among Africa’s youth.

Hit me up on social media and let’s keep the conversation going! I read all the feedback you send me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Also, feel free to send me your articles on relevant topics for publication on the Macroeconomic Bulletin. I’d give you full credit, an intro, and an outro. Kindly make it about 1000 words.

Have a lovely week!

Columnist: Maxwell Ampong