She said though the West African Sub-Region is endowed with a lot of water resources, such as rivers and lakes, access to water remain a challenge while agriculture continue to be predominantly rain fed.
Dr Annan made the call in Accra during a panel discussion at a day’s seminar organised by the China Europe International Business School Africa and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on “Managing Agribusiness in West Africa”.
The seminar provided opportunities for both academics and practitioners to debate some of the theoretical and policy issues that are of relevance to agribusiness development in the sub-region.
Dr Annan said: “When we look at food imports, African spends approximately $ 35 billion annually; even with the rice sector alone, we spend about $ 3.5 billion. A country like Senegal has the potential to produce enough rice for the whole of Africa; but unfortunately it lacks the basic infrastructure for irrigation for dry season production.”
She said Ghana produce rice in different varieties but the cost of production is very high; thus making the price of locally produced rice very un-competitive.
Dr Annan said potentials exist for regional markets; however, cross border trade has over the years proved to be very difficult within Africa; than with the rest of the world.
She said Ghana imports cattle, tomatoes and onions from neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso.
She noted that the regional market has the potential to benefit Africa.
Dr Annan said there is a huge potential, in cross border trading of fruits and vegetables within the sub Saharan Africa region.
She said border restrictions on the movement of goods and services within the sub-region and the high cost of transportation are hampering trade and development.
Professor Shashidhara Kolavalli, Senior Research Fellow, Development Strategy and Governance Division of the IFPRI, hailed Ghana for ensuring that food production always met the demands of the people.
He said better technological innovation and more adoptive trials could get the agriculture industry growing in the country.
Dr Julius Gatune Kariuki, Senior Research and Policy Advisor of the Africa Centre for Economic Transformation said African governments would promote the continent’s economic growth by putting in place policies that encourage the growth of the agribusiness sector.
He said the value chain enhancement of agribusiness produce is essential in promoting regional market trade in Africa and called for the promotion of large scale commercial farming in Africa.
By Iddi Yire, GNA