Minnesota Department of Agriculture promotes trade on first trip to Africa – Agweek
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture organized its first trade mission to Ghana this month.
From July 5 to 9, Patrice Bailey, Deputy Commissioner for Agriculture, participated in a trade mission and a business conference in Ghana. The visit was organized by Minnesota Africans United with support from MDA, the American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana and the US Embassy.
“This is MDA’s first time in Africa,” Bailey said. “And it’s monumental in the fact that we have about 5,000 Ghanaians living in Minnesota.”
Delegates included business leaders from various sectors such as agribusiness, health and renewable energy, who Bailey said were in the country to explore possible partnerships to boost trade and investment. between Minnesota and Ghana.
Bailey said the visit helped boost relations between Minnesota, Ghana and Cameroon. While in Ghana, he was able to meet the new US Ambassador to Ghana, Virginia Palmer, at the US Embassy.
He also met with members of the US Commercial Service and the US Department of Commerce who provided insight into trade issues in the country.
Companies such as 3M and Land O’Lakes have previously invested in Ghana for different products, but Bailey said the country is focused on strengthening its energy sector through trade.
One of the main agricultural products of the country is cocoa.
“You look at 30 million people (in Ghana), and it’s kind of a unique country because if you looked on a map, it’s zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude,” Bailey said. “So you’re kind of right in the middle of the world.”
The central location positions Ghana to handle any type of business, Bailey said. However, the country imports many more goods than it exports.
“That poses a problem for any country, in terms of resources coming in, versus resources going out,” Bailey said.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 57% of the total area of the country is classified as “agricultural” and 60% of all farms in the country are less than 1.2 hectares, which is equivalent about three acres.
The two Ghanaian farmers Bailey met focused on aquaculture. What he found most interesting about farming in Ghana was that much of the access to land was determined by which family had been there the longest.
“Instead of land, it’s basically lineage,” he said. “If I wanted to go to someone’s land to do agricultural work, the first thing they would ask me is what your last name is.”
At the business conference, Bailey shared information about Minnesota agriculture as well as the department’s Emerging Farmers program.
“I think it was very well received,” Bailey said. “Not only being able to tell Minnesota’s story, but Minnesota agriculture and what Minnesota has to offer.”