The Regional Agro-Economic Commodity Corridors concept acknowledges the differences in agroecological potential regions and even of contiguous administrations within regions that gives them production advantages of particular commodities, and the need to fully exploit such potentials for multiple economic gains including job creation, specialization and industrialization.
It also acknowledges the fact that to fully secure Ghana’s economy with agriculture, it will be necessary to clearly delineate roles for key players in the agriculture sector and provide relevant support for such roles. In Ghana’s agriculture economy, it appears the role of government has been over-emphasized to the detriment of private sector operators including farmers, aggregators, processors and key operatives along the agriculture value chain who in reality are the major stakeholders on whose shoulders rest the capability to secure the economic viability of agriculture in Ghana. The concept by no means underrates the role of government in the agriculture sector, rather it encourages government to focus its attention on provision of public infrastructure including improved technology generation and dissemination, standard setting and regulation that create the appropriate “canvas for the private sector to paint on”.
Most importantly the concept acknowledges that agriculture development happens on farms with agriculture technology dissemination provided at district administrative levels. As such the concept advocates increased provision of public sector support at district assembly levels where farmers and other key operators in commodity value chains can contribute to discussions on real needs and requirements in support of their operations.
This agriculture economic corridor commodity development concept is designed to promote rapid commodity value chain growth based on the natural resource capability of the various regions and agroecological zones in Ghana. When diligently planned and implemented the economic corridor concept can be the catalyst for administrative district industrialization, specialization and job creation. I believe this would provide the fulcrum for Ghana’s agro-based industrial development and provide the needed basis for the President’s “one district one factory” initiative
In recognition of the fact that regions may not have uniformed agroecological characteristics, Regional Agriculture Developments units of Regional Coordinating Councils must delineate agroecological zones of contiguous production capacities within their regions for the development of commodity value chains and viable agri-businesses. Once identified it will be expedient to prioritize commodities that have production comparative advantages and delineate such identified corridors for coordinated provision of public infrastructure to facilitate and enhance opportunities for private sector to develop various interventions promoting efficiencies in links along the value chain. These corridors will have development advantages including the following:
• Emergence of specific regional and inter regional agroecological zones that may be delineated into sub regional development units
• Generation of reliable raw material supply to support agro-based industrial development
• Strategic development of infrastructure (particularly feeder roads and paths) to support value chain development of prioritized commodities
• Contiguous agriculture development for high efficiency and economies of scale
• Optimum exploitation of natural economic potentials.
• Evidence-based information for leveraging relevant development interventions
Evolution of strategies to mitigate environmental challenges emanating from intensive agriculture
• Increased responsive agriculture research in support of value chain development.
In principle economic corridors will operate as follows:
A region may identify no more than 3 priority commodities based on its natural resource endowments and direct districts to concentrate the provision of advisory services (extension and research) towards increasing productivity and production levels. These could be either one or a combination of crops, livestock, poultry and fisheries. Since MMDAs are the Executing Agencies of plans developed by RCCs, Departments of Agriculture of contiguous districts within delineated corridors will be encouraged to deliver the following services to farmers and agri-businesses in their jurisdiction
• Targeted Advisory services (Crops Poultry and Livestock, Veterinary and Fisheries) for improved agronomic practices
• Increased responsive agriculture research to move production from subsistence to market productivity levels
• Adherence to good agricultural practices and standards
It is envisaged that the provision of the above services will lead to increased production levels and excess supply of the promoted commodities which will attract various actors operating on the specific value chains to take advantage of the increased supply potentials. However, the interest of private sector to respond to this economic potential will be dependent on the availability of basic infrastructure that will facilitate their operations. This will require intervention from regional administrations to direct resources in a coordinated manner to create the “expected canvas” that will lure private sector into the newly created reliable commodity supply centers. It will also provide incentives for private sector participation in the regional economy in support of the government’s decentralized industrial development agenda. Areas of private sector interventions Interestingly the presence of value chain operators will generate market opportunities that will encourage commodity producers to at the very least, maintain production levels. This is because availability of market engenders production in commercial quantities which consequently sustains promoted commodity value chains.
These corridors will have development advantages including the following:
•Optimum exploitation of natural resource economic potentials.
•Commodity based industrial development
•Development of non- traditional exports
•Specialization and industrialization
•Coherent infrastructure development to support sustainable commodity value chains
•Contiguous agriculture development for high efficiency
•Evidence base data for leveraging relevant development interventions
The development of economic corridors based on priority commodities will lead to engendering agro-based industrial development, create markets for increased produce, generate employment and lead to increased incomes which will make it possible for households to access their complementary food requirements for improved nutrition. Thus, in the long-term, promotion of economic corridors for commodity value chain development might be the solution to sustaining the gains of Development Partner investments in Ghana’s agriculture development.
It must be noted that the strategy is promoting maximization of natural resource endowments of given agroecological zones which often cut across district administrative boundaries. Since the economies of most districts are agriculture based, the successful promotion of this concept will lead to developing viable agro-economic centers of excellence supported with coordinated and efficient infrastructure
Roles of Public and Private Sectors in promoting Commodity Corridor development
The economic corridor concept provides clarity on the roles and responsibilities of the public sector that will induce and/or attract private sector interests. Regional Administrations are responsible for planning for effective and coherent exploitation of the regions’ economic potentials, District administrations are responsible for managing the execution of such plans which when well executed will create the enabling environment for private investment to operate effectively or increased economic gains. It is important for Regional Administrations/Public sector to refrain from getting involved in so called pilot projects which end up crowding out private sector without necessarily achieving sustained outcomes.
Activities that must be undertaken by regional administrations to optimize the economic benefits of the strategy include:
• Roads especially feeder road and farm tracks to nodal/aggregation points
• Social infrastructure including electricity, water supply and health facilities
• Regional Research laboratories established by CSIR and MOFA/PPRSD that will support robust adherence to standards to promote market competitiveness.
Potential areas likely to attract private investments into commodity agri-business management to engender vibrant and sustainable value chain development within the identified corridors include
• Input supply (fertilizer, seed, agrochemicals etc.)
• Establishment of processing factories
• Aggregation and marketing of commodities/raw materials
• Emergence of support services including agriculture mechanization service centers
To support strategic planning towards the economic corridor concept, the following recommendations based on data from the Statistical Research and Information Directorate (SRID) of MOFA may be considered in identifying priority commodity potentials in various regions.
The development of commodity corridors will enhance Ghana’s potential to maximize its natural resource potentials through effective collaboration between private enterprise and the public sector. A recognition of the strengths which various operators bring to the table for coherency will enhance potentials in the agriculture sector; the outcome of which will translate the much-touted statement of “agriculture being the engine of growth for Ghana’s economy” into reality. The effective development of these corridors will lead to specialization, industrialization, job creation and most importantly sustainable economic development of Ghana’s regions.