Just reading on Nuong Faalong’s post that, as of October 2018, Ghana was importing GH¢502 million (approximately $107 million) worth of onions annually from just Niger. In essence, Ghana invests over $100 million into the Nigerian economy and enriches the average Niger onion farmer every year.
Between 2012 and 2013, we imported tomatoes, with hundreds of millions of dollars, from Burkina Faso, more than what we produced here. For most parts of this year, I’ve tried to research and understand exactly what accounts for Ghana’s high importation of very basic items at the expense and detriment of the local production.
Like I published here a couple of weeks ago, Ghana imports over $1 billion in cereals and meat and $12million of vegetables from Brazil, Thailand, South Africa, and China. I mean common maize, beef, and carrots.
As hard as you try to understand that we shipped $107 million to Niger for Onions. Last time I checked, the Ghana Statistical service says 69.1% of Ghana’s landmass is Agricultural land (arable land).
In Niger, where we imported 100 million of onion from, the UN Data indicates that over 80% of their landmass is covered by the Sahara Desert. Despite having one of the best climatic conditions for agriculture production, not only in Africa but the world at large, nearly 18 million people (57%,) of our people are choked in the urban areas.
For a country like ours, with resources locked up in the hinterlands, the education sector is geared towards the mass production of sociologists, philosophers, psychologists, lawyers, political scientists, and fewer agriculture scientists.
To even say a child is going to read agricultural science in school is a mockery.
So an Agric science graduate from UDS Tamale has to come down to Accra to look for employment. When in fact only 6% of the arable land in the North has been cultivated.
A 32-year-old man from Duayaw Nkwanta will come and perch in a single room in Adenta and spend 4 years looking for a white-collar job. He has to resort to selling Toilet Rolls, made in Thailand Rice and Italian Paintings on the street just to survive.
His favorite meal is Banku and Tilapia. He loves more vegetables on his waakye and takes Corn Flakes with Milk in the evening.
Demand for these things is high so the government has to import $200million dollars of Tilapia from China. $420 million of maize from Brazil. $15million of Vegetables from South Africa and tons of Milk. This money goes in to strengthen these countries and help keep their Youth and active labor force in their jobs.
But back in Duayaw Nkwanta, this young man’s family has a 100 acre of land uncultivated for 50 years because everyone in that community has moved to the City to look for jobs. The inclination is that farming is not for a literate youth but old illiterate village folks.
And when they move to the city, whatever they eat and wear is imported from Thailand and China, where there is a Public Policy to support the Youth in setting up their own farms.
If we do not set our priorities right, and start revamping our education to begin to utilize our potential and enormous resources, the majority of our people will continue to use six years to look for jobs while we throw money into other country’s economies just to feed these same jobless youth.
Lands available, the climate is super, labor is cheaper but the enabling environment.
If the country’s Agricultural Development Bank facilitates loans faster for estate developers building apartments in the cities than they’ll give to a young man who is interested in farming and has provided an 80 acre of land as collateral, then there is a problem.
It should be a matter of policy, for the government to enforce such banks to channel 40% of their loans towards agriculture and agribusinesses.
Our transformational agenda will begin from here. If in two years, $100 billion is properly invested in this area, with massive factories set up in districts, roads leading to production centers well tarred. More agricultural scientists, offices established, and agriculture made attractively, people will leave the streets of Accra and return to get better jobs in the sector.
With a well-designed Nkrumah government policy in the 1950s and 60s, Ghana picked seed from another country, made it ours, became not only the best producers and exporters of it but the quality producers. This seed made several men and women millionaires and this seed became the backbone of our country’s economy. This seed was a foreign seed that became our identity due to strategic government policy. This seed is cocoa.
There are many of such we can achieve with many other crops.
Let us set our priorities right. Let us make use of what we have for free first. As the economists will say, the low hanging fruits are what started the transformational agendas of all these superpower economies. Make agric the target and trigger of our industrialization process.
We can continue to import arms, smartphones, and automobiles. But we can’t continue to import onions, fish, meat, and maize.
Close our borders to these that we can easily produce. Let’s start discussing these matters, critically.
Movement For Progress.