22nd July, 2010
Participants at the on-going Fifth African Agriculture Science week on Wednesday called on stakeholders, including political leaders to develop functional policies that will encourage more intra-Africa trade.
The participants, who include civil society groups from within and outside Africa involved in agriculture, farmers group and non-governmental organisations, said existing protocol on free movement of goods and persons, particularly in ECOWAS countries and other Regional Economic Communities (REC), needed to be fully implemented.
”On paper, there is the free movement of goods and persons, but in reality we all know that farmers who take their farm produce to neighbouring countries in the region are daily being harassed by security agencies at border points,” Lyndia Sasu of the Accra-based Association of Women Farmers said.
”Our leaders cannot shy away from this fact; they need to show more political will to implement agreed protocols.
“In Ghana, various women have received training in fish processing, they want to expand their markets to other places but are being discouraged by the various impediments across the region,” Sasu added.
The participants at the round table discussion on Promoting Access to Regional and International Markets for Agricultural Commodities as part of the Africa Agricultural Science Week also identified some key areas that need to be urgently addressed.
These include transfer of money on goods that have been bought, issue of standardisation, harassment at border points, establishment of reliable distribution network, pricing, subsidies and the need for more government support.
”The point is that agriculture accounts for a small part of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Besides this, it is important to build regional trade cooperation; it is important to encourage more African countries to trade with one another.
“We need to step up credit facilities to help the small holder farmers,” the Coordinator of the Partnerships to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, Julie Howard said.
Under AGOA, sub-Sahara African countries are allowed to export some designated products to the U.S. duty-free.
But the policy clocks 10 years this year with many African countries yet to take full advantage of it.
While about five percent of textiles has been exported under AGOA, since it started 10 years ago, only about one percent of agricultural produce has been exported.
On his part, an agriculture expert based in the U.S., Fred Oladeinde, underscored the importance of African countries to improve infrastructure, remove impediments to trade among themselves, develop regional market and the need for civil society and farmers group to be more vocal in their demands.
”We cannot improve our well being if we do not help the farmers in promoting regional trade and market.
“We should begin to see how we can use our efficiency to put the relevant infrastructure in place using the various research conducted across Africa by institutions. The key message is that everybody should play their roles well,” Emmanuel Tambi of the Accra-based Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) said.