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USDA injects $56m to improve Ghana poultry sector

The funding is targeted at improving poultry health and feed stocks, which agribusiness Amatheon's CIO sees as a positive step to encourage investment.

As an American trade mission to sub-Saharan Africa comes to an end today, 22 American companies will be eyeing export opportunities for their products. But the most positive outcome for agribusiness in the region itself has come from the American government’s promise of $57 million to Ghana’s poultry industry, a commitment agriculture deputy secretary Krysta Harden announced in Accra on Tuesday.

Poultry production in Ghana increased by 80 percent between 2000 and 2007 according to a Food and Agriculture Organisation report. But this national livestock success was soon dealt deep blows by the spread of Gumboro disease, competition from imports and the high cost of feed. Avian influenza in neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire, from where many of Ghana’s laying eggs were imported, hasn’t helped. Neither did the 2008 financial crisis, which flattened expectations of continued investment from around the world. Many poultry businesses shut down, while others struggle on with disease and profit margins.

The US investment includes two agreements. The first is a $36.6 million deal in which the non-profit ACDI/VOCA will target producer groups and co-operatives to improve feed quality and veterinary services for farmed fowl. The second, valued at $21.5 million, will see the American Soybean Association educate producers “about the importance of high-quality feed and improves the industry’s capacity to test feed,” according to a United States Department of Agriculture press release.

Frank Braeken, chief investment officer at German firm Amatheon Agri, told Agri Investor that the targeted move to improve poultry was “immensely positive”, and that it should be taken as a sign that the time is right to invest in African agribusinesses.

“I think that in Ghana the whole agri section has huge opportunity and if it turns out that American companies are interested in investing in the country after this too, that is even better.”

Braeken added that Amatheon, which has developed crop and livestock businesses in sub-Saharan countries like Zambia, is actively looking to make agricultural investments in Ghana. “Investors have to keep in mind that there is something like a first mover advantage so we can’t keep on waiting until everything is safe, we have to move when there is still some risk involved.”

“I think what the [US] government is doing in terms of training and assistance – this is very supplementary. This is really helping the Ghanian government to improve conditions of training and reach a regulatory framework that makes it safer for consumers and more attractive for investors, so this is excellent news,” he said.

“The Food for Progress agreements are the latest example of the partnership between the people of Ghana and the United States,” Harden said in Accra. “When the government of Ghana asked for assistance to improve its poultry sector, USDA and its partners were ready to help.”

For Braeken, it is a helping hand. But the transformation of Ghana’s agribusiness landscape ultimately needs training and capital investment.