Monday, June 29, 2015

Seed traders bemoan dwindling maize production

The Seed Trade Association of Ghana (STAG) has expressed worry about the country’s dwindling maize production and called for speedy promulgation of seed regulations that will contribute greatly toward operations of the agricultural sector.
“The country’s maize production has declined to 1.3million tonnes this year from about 2 million tonnes in 2012. Our average yield per hectare is two tonnes, while some other African countries are achieving between eight and 10 tonnes per hectare.”

Chairman of STAG Kwabena Adu-Gyamfi, speaking at the launch of the Association and also stakeholder dialogue on seed regulations in the country, said agricultural productivity in the country is quite low compared to the international scene; and that the situation is serious, with effects on food production.

Explaining the country’s low agricultural productivity, Mr. Adu-Gyamfi said the seed industry is a specialised one on its own with all its technical and business requirements.

Speaking on establishment of the Association, Mr. Adu-Gyamfi said the association’s aim is to help farmers to access quality seeds for planting, at affordable prices.

He said the Association also seeks to bring all players in the seed value chain together in order to advocate better policies toward promotion of the seed industry.

“The Association will bridge the gap that exists between farmers and scientists, and help the former access seeds developed by the latter,” Mr. Adu-Gyamfi said.

He said the Association aims at representing interests of the seed industry in Ghana, and helping to boost the farmers’ yields will also allow members to work collectively in dealing with the problems of materials, training and finance.

He said the seed industry is a specialised area, and there is a need for stakeholders to unite and dialogue with government on regulations and policies that will move the industry forward.

“It is a risky business. We need support from government and with STAG we can make the voices of players known to stakeholders,” he said, adding that the Association will also forge partnerships with the public sector to deliver quality seeds to farmers and help bridge the gap between the scientists and members.

He indicated that government has set up a seed policy, but the regulation to really activate the law is still in the works.

He said STAG, which registered at the Registrar-General’s Department as a limited liability private commercial enterprise, is made up of seed companies including Agric Commercial Services Limited, M and B Seeds Limited, Savanna Seeds and Services Limited, Mabert Company Limited, Lexbok Investment Limited, and Rural Innovations Consult Limited.

The others are Rural Innovations Consult Limited, Heritage Seeds Limited, Wienco Ghana Limited, Antika Enterprise Limited, and Meridian Seeds Limited.

Mr. Adu-Gyamfi said the association has participated in reviewing the Seed Regulations of Ghana, stressing that the group is represented on the taskforce set up to help amend the draft Seed Regulations.

Mr. Josiah Wobil, a seed consultant who chaired the programme, commended the founding members for the Association’s formation, saying “This is a laudable step”.

He said formation of the Association gives impetus to government’s vision of the private sector leading in the provision of quality seed for farmers.

Mr. Wobil said though the private sector is playing a leading role in the seed industry, government will continue supporting the sector in researching crop varieties.

The STAG, an umbrella-body of enterprises in the seed value chain, was launched to advance the diverse interests of members. It was established in 2014 with funding from Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, the USAID- Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Project, and the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund.

STAG brings together Ghanaian and private international companies registered in Ghana and operating in the supply, production, processing, distribution and marketing of improved seeds of assorted cereals, legumes, vegetables, roots and tuber varieties.

Within the short period of its existence, STAG has been involved in advocacy to get the Seed Regulations passed to guide implementation of the Plant and Fertiliser Law; get more private sector players on the National Seed Council; and get the price-fixing system of seeds abolished and replaced with a fair market basis for pricing seeds in Ghana.

STAG was represented on the National Task Force that worked to amend the draft seed regulations and align them with those of the ECOWAS Regulations to make them compatible.
STAG facilitated training on advocacy, financial management and communication for members of the Association.

Strong collaboration between gov’t and miners essential for local content

Dr. Toni Aubynn, Chief Executive of the Minerals Commission, says a strong collaboration between mining industry and government is an essential first-step for successful design and effective implementation of local content measures.

“A successful strategy expands the depth of local outsourcing, opens up opportunities for more local suppliers, creates jobs, promotes technology transfer through learning by doing, and offers opportunities for local management. For industry, it means reduced supply chain costs, shortened delivery times, and contributing to inclusive growth. For government, it means a broader tax and a diversified growth base.”

 Dr. Aubynn told key representatives of government, civil society organisations, mining communities and industry gathered in Accra to discuss the governance around local content policies for the country’s mining sector. 

 The dialogue, which was the third in a series of dialogues on Mining Governance and supported by the Australian government, was in partnership with the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET). 

The Australian High Commission’s First Secretary Development Cooperation, Ms Zabeta Moutafis, opening the event said the dialogue’s purpose was to bring together key stakeholders and policymakers to discuss and build consensus around the complex issues concerning local content in the extractives sector. 

 The extractives sector has a key role to play in transforming and developing Ghana into the future,” Ms Moutafis said. 

 With substantial expertise in both mining and development, Australia is well-placed to support African countries that wish to overcome the challenges and reap the benefits of a growing mining sector.

 The dialogue discussed issues such as: designing local content policies that balance the investment objectives of mining companies with national development goals; reconciling local content policies in mining with regional cooperation initiatives; and the promotion of domestic economic linkages while achieving trade competitiveness. 

Case-studies and a discussion paper were presented to the group by Dr. Aubynn and were followed by a discussion moderated by Mr. Benjamin Aryee, Mining Advisor from the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources. 

 Discussions highlighted both the challenges and opportunities presented by Ghana’s current framework on local content, with case studies presenting examples of best practices in the region and globally. 

The discussion looked at what tangible opportunities can be provided for local communities and businesses to buy into the mining value chain. 

Over 150 participants have been involved in the dialogue sessions to date, representing a wide range of stakeholders in Ghana. 

This final dialogue also included a discussion on options for establishing an ongoing, sustainable dialogue in the country to keep the dialogue and debate alive.

Nation holds potential for sugar production

Mr. George Fynn, Head, Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation of  the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI), has said Ghana enjoys the climatic and soil preconditions necessary to produce sugar.

“Agronomic studies continue to emphasise the potential for sugar production in Ghana, particularly in the drier northern regions, and have identified specific locations with attractive drainage, water resources, and topographical attributes,” Mr. Fynn said.

He was speaking at a stockholder engagement to solicit their input for a draft National Sugar Policy to help revamp the industry and make it a globally competitive one.

The policy seeks to provide an enabling infrastructural and institutional environment for a globally competitive private sector sugar industry, to help reduce foreign exchange expenditure on imported sugar, contribute to rural industrial development, and provide supplementary electricity through co-generation for the national grid.

The policy forum is therefore to coordinate and regulate the relationships between different stakeholders, such as growers and millers, and assure investors of commitment to the necessary infrastructures; such as feeder roads, water and electricity access; and funding for crop research institutes and out-grower schemes.

It also seeks to ensure that Ghana offers an attractive investment regime to beat alternative investment opportunities in rival economies, particularly in West Africa.

Mr. Fynn explained that despite significant demand for sugar, domestic production remains at zero.
 Sugar was produced in Ghana between the 1960s and 1980s -- yet failed due to excessive governmental controls, inappropriate soviet-era factories, difficulties with spare-parts and the failure of government to facilitate infrastructure development, he said.

 Sugar production requires substantial long-term investment, which could amount to as much as US$700million for a modern sugar estate.

 The prior enactment of legislation and policy would assure investors of policy alignment and protection of their investments.

According to MOTI, Ghana imports substantial quantities of sugar, which is the 18th most valuable product imported in 2013 and fourth-largest food import after rice, fish, and poultry.

In 2011, the country spent US$187million to import 494,000 Metric Tonnes (M/T) of sugar -- and by 2030 sugar consumption is projected to rise to 872,000 m/t.

Sugar is important in terms of food security as well as for foreign exchange, and consumption is growing rapidly.

 The West Africa sub-region, to which Ghana could export duty-free, is also projected to experience more rapid sugar consumption growth than any other region in the next five years.

 Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, the Trade Minister, said absence of a policy in the 1960s had contributed to the current state of the industry, and expressed hope that the new policy will help reduce importation of sugar into the country and make Ghana a net exporter.

 Mr. Samuel Anum, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Capacity Building Projector Coordinator who took stakeholders through the policy, said drawing from the existing sugar policies of some producing countries and situational analysis of the Ghanaian context, eight strategic objectives were identified to comprise the Ghana National Sugar Policy.

 These are: the provision of land, infrastructure development, human resource development, and processing and manufacturing.

 Others are research and development, financing and tax-framework, institutional capacity development and legal and regulatory framework.

Meeting these strategic directions, he said, will require solving challenges across many ministries, departments, and agencies.

 “From this Ghana National Sugar Policy, a Sugar Policy Delivery Unit has been established with the remit and authority to coordinate the implementation of this Policy across Ministries Department and Agencies,” Mr. Anum said.

“The Policy Delivery Unit will also provide support services to investors, coordinate state requirements of investors, and ensure that the Ghana National Sugar Policy addresses sugar investments,” he said.