Accra, April 6, GNA - A substantial portion of food produced in the country goes to waste due to perennial constraints of storage facilities and there is the need for appropriate measures to ensure that food is adequately preserved.
Mrs. Anna Nyamekye, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in-charge of Fisheries, repeated that apart from the waste, processing was also a major challenge facing the agricultural sector. "Only 15 per cent of the food produced receives any kind of processing," Mrs Nyamekye said at the launch of the Ghana Chapter of African Women in Agri-Business Network (AWAN) in Accra. AWAN is regional network set up with the support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aimed at bringing together African women who are in agro-business.
AWAN is already rooted in Southern, East and Central Africa and intends to use Accra as its main base for operations in the sub-region. She noted that out of the 14 million hectares of land suitable for agriculture, only six million hectares were being cultivated to produce about 20 million tonnes of food.
The deputy Minister said the ministry was aware of the problems in the sector and had taken remedial steps to speed up processes required to add value to farm products.
"MOFA has introduced a number of small-scale machinery and equipments such as rice mills with de-stoner facilities, tomato processing equipment all geared towards boosting food production." Mrs Nyamekye said the extension of AWAN branch to Ghana was timely since the years ahead held great potentials for agro-business in the country, particularly for women entrepreneurs who constituted 70 per cent of the labour management input into agriculture.
"Agro-based industries have proven that they can add value to products to create employment and increase income," she said. "MOFA is ready to provide AWAN all the support it would require to make the country achieve its national goal of becoming a middle-income agro-based industrial nation by 2015."
Mrs Tina Swatson Eshun, Coordinator of AWAN, noted that with globalisation and emergence of regional and international market programmes under ECOWAS, NEPAD, AGOA and other trade agreements, networking and information sharing had assumed increased importance. She said in spite of some gains made by women in agro-business, lack of access to information about market trends, opportunities and challenges and available resources posed serious threat to the business. Mrs Eshun called for effective networking among African women in agro-business to increase their access to information as well as enhance their capacity to participate in the global agro-business trade.