I went to a factory packaging mangoes, pineapples and coconuts today on the outskirts of Accra. As I sat in the car outside waiting to go in, I couldn’t help but feel a buzz in the air. Everybody was busy.
Once inside, I was taken on a tour of the factory. I love factories. I like the way factories work. You take something from point A through to Z and transform it. Inside I met people sorting the fruits out, washing them, cutting them, packaging them, slapping the “use by” label on and proudly proclaiming that “every fruit here, is organic and fresh”.
Fruit Cuttings destined for Europe were being kept at the right temperature, until the airlines pick up for the trip abroad later in the day; straight onto the shelves of supermarkets in the countries of Europe by 10.00am the following morning.
There is something to be said for an agribusiness operation like this. Given the high level of unemployment, a place like this can give people back their self respect. Here at this factory, 3500 people have a job, making it one of the largest employers in the country. It’s seems to me that Ghana should be taking this agribusiness model more seriously.
Somewhere in the 90’s there was the drive to promote what we called non traditional exports. There was a time when there were up to 36 pineapple plantations. Now there are only 5.
I dare say herein lies our competitive advantage as a country. Fruits from Ghana are considered premium and have a reputation for being the best (like our cocoa) and in some cases we have two harvesting seasons in the same year where others have one.
Yet here at this factory, a big chunk of the fruits were imported from neighboring countries and afar. Ghana does not have sufficient acreage of fruit under cultivation. People don’t fancy farming. The owners of this factory have now taken to growing their own fruits to feed their factory.
There is something wrong with this situation. Our policy makers should fix it. Agribusiness ought to be elevated to its rightful place in nation building. Forex bureaus and selling phone cards can only go so far.