FCI Trade Summit in Ghana Helps Deliver Solutions to Africa’s Food Security

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Private industry meets to advance the availability of crop inputs to help create better farming systems in West Africa

Farmers want to have access to quality products so they can improve their productivity. Without an increase in incomes they are never going to have the motivation to continue to invest in farming - William Kotey, president of CropLife Ghana

The term “food security” is everywhere in the news media, but do you ever wonder how the actual solution to hunger in the developing world is being played out?

Results are tangible at the Farm Chemicals International Trade Summit, where crop input buyers and sellers help fortify the value chain. More than 230 delegates from 16 countries gathered at the Accra International Conference Center from May 6-8, 2012, the summit marked FCI’s third event in Africa since launching in 2007. Here in West Africa, agricultural industry experts and NGOs, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s CNFA, Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa and USAID discussed how improving smallholder farmers’ access to knowledge and technology can boost the region’s lagging productivity to help knock out food insecurity.

In the backdrop of the conference, hundreds of crop input suppliers and distributors from around the world met on the tradeshow floor to connect with new trading partners and gather market intelligence. Those connections will deliver to the region’s farmers the products they need, such as high-quality herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, fertilizers and a wide range of natural products such as seed inoculants and biopesticides.
“This event and those who participate in it represent a success story for food security, and in a very pragmatic way, the results are measurable and lasting,” says FCI Editor David Frabotta. “Better distribution of crop production technologies will create stronger local agribusinesses that help support farmers, ultimately leading to better agronomic systems and more prosperous farming communities. We provide a venue that benefits the entire value chain. Our program and delegate recruitment hinges on the belief that private enterprises are best positioned to deliver the right input in the right place at the right time.”

The FCI Trade Summit drew people like Kristopher Klokkenga, who left central Illinois to co-found Africa Atlantic Farms in Ghana three years ago and is searching for more reliable access to inputs for his corn crop along the shores of Lake Volta. The Summit attracted people like Pedro Lage, director of innovative biological product maker Lage y Cía, who traversed the globe from his home base in Montevideo, Uruguay. It drew agricultural industry leaders like Rajesh Agarwal, director of agrochemical supplier Krishi Rasayan Exports of India, and Darren Lu, who manages the agrochemical department at China’s MetChem Enterprise Group.

“Farmers want to have access to quality products so they can improve their productivity. Without an increase in incomes they are never going to have the motivation to continue to invest in farming,” William Kotey, president of CropLife Ghana and general manager of Ghana Weinco, said in his address to the delegation. In Africa just 10% of smallholder farmers use crop inputs while soil health remains severely depleted.

Crop protection products are instrumental in stopping pest attacks like those currently affecting West Africa’s cocoa farmers. Ghana heavily subsidized cocoa inputs and its production is on the rapid rise. But in Nigeria, the world’s fourth-largest cocoa producer, farmers in the southwest Oyo state are being warned that large volumes of their cocoa crop may be destroyed if insect attacks are left unchecked.

Dr. Kehinde Makinde, AGRA Director of Agrodealer Development for West Africa and Ghana Country Officer, showed FCI Trade Summit delegates how his organization is working in 12 African countries to boost smallholders’ access to crop protection products and technologies by training agrodealers, networking them with input suppliers and providing links to financial institutions for funding. One of AGRA’s goals is to make sub-Saharan Africa self-sufficient in staple foods by 2020.

Patrice Annequin, marketing development specialist for IFCD, told attendees that fertilizer use in sub-Saharan Africa hovers at less than 8 kg per hectare per year, still a fraction of the 50 kg the organization is targeting by 2015. Fertilizers are too expensive for many, and prices can sometimes double in a month, as in 2007. In addition, weak regional market integration leads to dramatic price variations for subsidies.

“IFDC aims to overcome these obstacles by providing better access to information so farmers can link up with agrodealers, and ultimately pay cheaper prices,” he said. The organization runs the online database AMITSA, http://www.esoko.com/amitsa, an up-to-date listing of retail prices for crop inputs. Prices are collected via SMS from agrodealers by the thousands, facilitating transparency in the market.

“At the end of the day we create a more favorable environment so private people can do a better job in the sector,” Annequin told the delegates.
Fenton Sands, USAID food security officer, called attention to the organization’s focus on stimulating private sector investment in poverty-afflicted Northern Ghana, such as rice in the Bamboi area. The program is set to deliver $63 million in income to the region’s farmers and to filter $33 million into community payments that improve services to transportation, health and education.

“This is inclusive agriculture,” Sands said. “Any investment we are part of has to return that investment to farms in the farm community.”
Learn more about the FCI Trade Summit at http://www.fcitradesummit.com. Register now for the 2012 FCI Trade Summit in Miami, Florida, Aug. 6-8.

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