Accra, July 19, GNA - Mr Ernest Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture, on Monday said the country's agriculture was operating far below its potential and there was the need for the sector to transform the structure of agricultural production to meet consumer demands. He said agriculture in Ghana would only improve in its value of goods and services if there were a shift from dependency on roots, tubers, plantain and cocoa to a more balanced situation with cereals, fish, livestock, fruits and vegetables.
He said this would require the development of a more efficient support infrastructure such as roads, agro-based industries, market information, efficient institutions, commodity markets and the adoption of more productive technologies.
Mr Debrah said this at Ghana's Strategy Support Programme (GSSP) inception workshop in Accra to obtain guidance and feedback from the development community on the rationale of the Programme, the relevance of its objectives and planned activities.
The workshop, jointly organized by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), was also to identify the important knowledge gaps related to the design and implementation of Ghana's development strategy and how to address them through the GSSP.
It was also to identify potential GSSP partners as well as policy analysis; knowledge management capacity constraints and strengthening identified needs.
Mr Debrah said: "Agricultural development needs to be productive as well as responsive and capable of achieving the 14 per cent growth rate. Given the agricultural potential of Ghana and the current low support for the sector, it is estimated that the country's agriculture is operating far below its potential".
Mr Debrah said there were unmet demands for financing of the agricultural sector, which must be urgently addressed if the sector were to perform as expected and called for the establishment of internationally acceptable quality standards, which would include packaging and product presentation.
He expressed worry that there were no strong links between policy making and research saying "it is not by sheer coincidence that our Asian friends have made it both internally and internationally because they have always remained focused with research given its rightful place in policy formulation and implementation".
Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, said Ghana's economy had in the past been dominated by agriculture, which accounted for 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.
He said the dominance of agriculture for growth and poverty made the sector an important one for government's drive for achieving 1,000 dollars per capita income by the year 2015.
"The focus is to strengthen and deepen the existing knowledge in the research departments and policy planning sections to improve knowledge," he said.
Ms Sharon Cromer, Mission Director of USAID, said the Department had provided the seed fund for the GSSP and would continue funding for the next four years. She said GSSP would need a broad base of support and ownership by government to make it more sustainable and useful. She said GSSP was closely integrated with other USAID initiatives designed to assist the government of Ghana in the area of agriculture and economic growth.
"It is our hope that this programme evolves as a critical tool for evidence -based policy decisions that will ensure the objectives of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategies are met."
Dr Samuel Asuming-Brempong of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness of the University of Ghana said current policies for modernisation of agriculture were largely production-oriented and had a low likelihood of reducing poverty directly on any significant scale.