Post Covid-19: AGRA urges govt to accelerate investments in agriculture

The West African Regional Head of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Foster Boateng, is calling on the government to accelerate investment in the agricultural sector during and after Covid-19.

He observed that in spite of the numerous challenges confronting the sector, the Covid-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity for Ghana to double down on its efforts to building a resilient agri-food system.  Adding that “accelerating investments in the agriculture sector is imperative for economic recovery and growth during and after the COVID19 pandemic”.

Boateng made the call as the world marks International Food Day today.

Below is the full text

The COVID-19 pandemic struck Ghana at a time when the country was grappling with youth unemployment, effects of climate change, and 2.5million people (5% of the total population) who are food insecure.

The measures aimed at tackling the health crisis by the Government within the context of the pandemic have had short, medium and long term impacts on food and nutrition.

The severity of the measures on the agriculture sector was relatively low in comparison to industry and service sectors of the Ghanaian economy during the three-week lockdown and mobility restrictions.

The apparent low impact of the pandemic on the agricultural sector could be attributed to the modest achievement of the Government’s popular and transformational agricultural flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ).

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), in 2017 under its State Capability Support investment portfolio, provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to design the five-year flagship programme aimed at increasing productivity and production of smallholder farmers in staple food crops and vegetables.

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The programme has within three years facilitated the access of two million farmers to improved seeds, fertilizers, extension services and markets. Among the key results of the PFJ are: increased production volume of maize from 1.9 million tons in 2017 to 3.5million tons in 2019 making Ghana now self-sufficient in maize production; and locally milled rice production increased from 498,000 tons in 2017 to 665,000 tons in 2019, and with national consumption estimated at 1.3 million tons, Ghana is said to be at 51% self-sufficient in rice production. The expectation of the government is to become fully self-sufficient by 2025.

In spite of the numerous challenges confronting the sector, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity for Ghana to double down on its efforts to building a resilient agri-food system. Accelerating investments in the agriculture sector is imperative for economic recovery and growth during and after the COVID19 pandemic.

Building back better, will require an enabling regulatory business environment and public sector investments informed by evidence in infrastructure, research, and development to leverage private sector investment to drive sustainable food systems.

These will require a concerted effort of Government, Development Partners, private sector mainly SMEs, and non-state actors to facilitate investments toward addressing systemic bottlenecks in the agriculture sector – agro-input distribution system, extension (digital), mechanization, value chain financing, structured market, regional trade, logistics and infrastructure – while ensuring mutual accountability.

As we celebrate World Food Day, we have to recognize the significant role of SMEs in driving agricultural
transformation that benefits millions of smallholder farmers, meeting the food demand of the ever-growing
urban population, and creating decent jobs for the teeming unemployed youth.

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