The Kingdom of the Netherlands has prioritized commercial agriculture as an area of intervention to engage with Ghana to move from aid to trade in support of the country’s resolve to move herself beyond aid.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a big player in the agricultural sector with records showing that it exported a 100 Billion Dollar worth of agricultural products in 2017 alone.
The Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, H. E. Ron Strikker, affirmed the commitment of his country to the Ghana beyond aid vision of the government, when he joined the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, George Oduro, to launch the new phase of the GhanaVeg programme which is now christened HortiFresh at the la Palm Royal Beach Resort in Accra.
“We have prioritized commercial agriculture in our strategic plan of moving from aid to trade in support of Ghana’s vision to move beyond aid.” He stated.
He highlighted the key role of the private sector in this new direction while he emphasized some of the opportunities that focus on improving food safety for the domestic market, better quality and added value for export markets.
Mr. Strikker, however, expressed disappointment about the fact that banks in the country have neglected agriculture and have not been supporting local farmers as they should. He therefore called on the financial sector to prioritize the horticulture sector in their loan portfolio, since the GhanaVeg programme has already identified many reliable companies with profitable business projects.
“Actually, I was shocked to find out that out of all the loans that banks give out in this country here in Ghana, only 4% goes to the agriculture sector. The financial sector should be the oil for the engine for the economy to run. ” He observed.
The HortiFresh programme is succeeding the GhanaVeg programme which was implemented in Ghana between 2014 and 2017 with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Accra. It is aimed at establishing a sustainable and internationally competitive fruit and vegetable sector that contributes to inclusive economic growth, food and nutrition security.
The Deputy Mminister for Food and Agriculture, George Oduro, on his part advised the beneficiaries of the new programme to do well to service their debts in order to pave the way for other farmers to also benefit in future.
He also announced that the government has begun the recruitment of some extension officers among others and offering 50% subsidy on fertilizers under the Planting for Food and Jobs programme. He therefore urged the farmers to take advantage of the offers by employing their services.
“I must inform you that this month we are recruiting about 2,700 staff at the Ministry. About 700 extension officers and veterinary officers and so on and so forth. Come to us and we can show you where to get assistance… The Ministry is giving 50% subsidy under the Planting for Food and Jobs so those in the horticulture sector can write to us to request for assistance.” He indicated.
The new programme’s predecessor, GhanaVeg, supported more than 30 innovative projects that were implemented by lead companies. Two of the most successful companies, Eden Tree Limited and AB Farms, gave impressive presentations about the results of their GhanaVeg projects. It was demonstrated that through the collaboration, both companies were able to double their revenues and work closely with more than 50 out growers each.
As a first case of support to be enjoyed under the new programme, a cooperation agreement was signed between a Ghanaian fruit and vegetable company known as the Fruitmaster, Rabobank Foundation and HortiFresh to develop a 5,000m2 greenhouse in the Volta Region.
In the cooperation agreement, the three partners commit themselves to financing and technical support for quality production of tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers for the national market, employing at least 25 new staff that will operate the greenhouse and grading facilities.
Source: Clement Akoloh/afriwakeradio.com