By Rocklyn Antonio
Trade in West Africa is worth $20 billion a year, which is 50 times official current figures according to estimates from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). s is an indication of trade opportunities available to increase intra-regional trade to contribute to theverall growth of the region. Speaking at the opening in Accra, Ghana, of a three-day workshop to assess the value chain of onions, shallots and ruminant livestock, the Chief of Party of Agribusiness and Trade Promotion (ATP), Ishmael Ouedraogo, said the trade potentials in West Africa have not been fully tapped because of a number of constraints.
These include tariff and non-tariff barriers which increase transaction cost and time; transportation difficulties such as bad roads and harassment; weak private sector advocacy; and weak linkages among value-chain actors.
ATP is being funded by USAID with $16.9 billion to run the Agribusiness Trade Promotion Project, which aims at increasing the value and volume of intra-regional agricultural trade in the sub-region in order to achieve the 6% agriculture growth target set under the AU/NEPAD Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
It is hoped that the four-year project will eventually reduce all the barriers that hinder smooth trade in the region.
For example, there is a big market for ruminant livestock since meat is consumed on a large-scale in the region. However, most coastal markets in the region are flooded with meat imported from Europe and North America, due to the fact that local slaughter of livestock is done in insanitary conditions with limited refrigerated storage for chilled meat. Live animals are also shipped in trucks which are ill-adapted for long distance transport.
Sheep, goats and cattle raised in the Sahelian region, therefore, comprise important commodities in the coastal countries of West Africa.
Cereals such as maize whether for human consumption as foodstuff, beverage and oil or for animal feed are of great importance in intra-regional trade. Commercial trade in sorghum and millet also has strong potential for development. Improved storage, processing, packaging and distribution are essential to the cereals value chain.
Onions and shallots are important ingredients in regional cooking resulting in an increase in cultivation and consumption. They have become the most widely traded raw vegetables in West Africa and are the cash crops of most farmers in the Sahelian region.
Currently, only seven West African countries -- Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, Nigeria, Cote d' Ivoire and Ghana -- are benefiting from the ATP programme, which will later be spread across the region.
The Cognizant Technical Officer (CTO) of USAID in West Africa, Michael Wyzan, was among the dignitaries at the opening of the Accra workshop.//Ghana Daily Guide