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£10m DFID fund to support Northern Region farmers



Farmers in the Northern Region of Ghana are to benefit from a £10-million fund to support their agricultural businesses and irrigation schemes.

The amount, provided under the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID), is Ghana’s share of the £50-million fund package to support Africa’s agricultural development.

The fund, which will be operational by the end of September, 2013, is expected to link 160,000 small-scale farmers to profitable markets and generate revenue for their families.

The Northern Ghana Catalytic Fund (NGCF), will invest the fund in small and medium enterprise (SME) initiatives through concessional debt and equity, with the express goal of increasing the incomes of the poor farmers the fund works with.

The UK Minister for the Commonwealth and Africa, Mark Simmonds, announced the package after he had visited Blue Skies Holding Limited, a fruit producing company, in the Eastern Region yesterday.

He said the DFID fund was expected to benefit 650,000 people across Africa with jobs and better incomes.

Simmonds lamented that Africa had more unexploited potential for food production than anywhere else in the world, holding 50 per cent of the world’s uncultivated fertile land, “yet its commercial agricultural sector attracts relatively little investment”.

“The UK development fund is expected to help thousands of farmers in the north of Ghana to develop their businesses, grow food for millions, while generating revenue that can be reinvested back in Ghana’s agricultural sector,” he said.

Simmonds said the DFID fund was geared towards developing and expanding 45 agri-businesses in the country, adding, “This could increase the turnover of these companies by £60 million by 2018.”

According to him, the fund would create an additional 27,000 jobs and assist 90,000 people to benefit from an average additional income of over $1,000 per year over the next decade.

“It will improve irrigation and processing for commercial agri-business for 49,000 farmers. By 2018, up to 30,000 additional hectares will be under irrigation,” he said.

The Chairman of Blue Skies Holding Ltd, Anthony Pile, said the fund would go a long way to enhance and improve the operations of farmers in the country.

He said the company had employed at least 1,900 workers in all sectors of its operations, adding, “We ensure that the best of fruits are assembled from the West African sub-region to produce the Blue Skies fruit drink.”

A major challenge, Pile mentioned, was the quality of fruits produced by the farmers and urged them to improve their produce, since it affected the image of the country.

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