Representatives of the Chinese and Brazilian governments in the country have challenged government to enhance growth in the agriculture sector in order to make development issues more meaningful to the larger population.

The Brazilian Ambassador to Ghana, Irene Gala, and the Chief of Staff the Chinese Embassy in Ghana, Ji Haojun, commented at the maiden edition of the Ghana Economic Forum in Accra that there is need to encourage both local and foreign participation in agriculture by resolving the bottlenecks in land acquisition.

“My observation about Ghana is that there is so much land lying idle. At the same time, many people are rushing to the cities and going abroad and the country is importing many food-stuffs; and that is very strange.

“If you cannot feed yourself, there is nothing like development to talk about. There is need to improve on agriculture,” said Mr. Haojun.

The Brazilian Ambassador to Ghana, Irene Gala, added that while there is need to encourage foreign investments in agriculture in the country, small-holder farmers must at the same time be supported in order for the country to be self-sufficient in food production.

Drawing experiences from her home country, Mrs. Gala said: “The challenge for Brazil for the next couple of years is to provide 40 percent of the world’s agricultural needs. But 98 percent of what Brazil eats comes from small-holder farmers.”   

Currently, growth in the agriculture sector which employs more than half of the country’s population has been impeded by the land tenure system and over-concentration on the services sector.

Over the last few years agriculture growth has been declining consistently, from 7.4 percent in 2008 to peg at 0.8 percent in 2011. However, last year, the economy as a whole expanded by about 14.4 percent.

Participants at the Ghana Economic Forum unanimously noted that agricultural growth has not improved partly on account of the land holding system in the country.

However, there was divided opinion on a suggestion for government to confiscate lands for agriculture use — a position the Minister of Trade and Industry, Hannah Tetteh, shared.

“One of the issues that we have not been able to deal with in agriculture is land.  Our land tenure system is very complicated. If government cannot compulsorily acquire land for companies, it will be difficult for private enterprises to acquire land of large size for industrial or commercial agricultural use,” she said.

But Mrs. Gala said the issue of land tenure must be addressed through dialogue, stating: “Access to land is a relevant issue for anyone who wants to come to Ghana to invest in agriculture. The issue of access to land is very relevant.

“But I think the government is not entitled to take this issue on its shoulders and discuss. This is an issue for the whole society.”

The President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Nana Owusu Afari, added that there is need for government to dialogue with the National House of Chiefs to address the issue of land tenure system in the country.   

The Ghana Economic Forum 2012 focused on highlighting key drivers of the economy and the intersecting players which have to be considered in addressing the economic issues of the country.

By Evans Boah-Mensah

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