The newly appointed Dutch agricultural counselor to Ghana and the rest of West Africa, Bram Wits has revealed his ambition to partner government, the private sector and relevant institutions to unearth the full commercial potential of the country’s agricultural value chain, as bilateral and development relations between the two countries evolve from aid to trade.
Though the global network of agricultural counselors representing the government of the Netherlands has existed since the beginning of the last century, this is the first time in 25 years, that Mr. Wits is in the country to serve as a link between Dutch agro-based companies and knowledge institutions, and their West African counterparts, while promoting Dutch expertise to help develop the country’s agricultural sector.
As part of efforts to strengthen the development ties with Ghana and West Africa through agriculture, the Netherlands Embassy sponsored two Ghanaian journalists to participate in the annual global congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, IFAJ, which took place in the Netherlands from July 10 to July 15, 2018.
In an interaction with a section of the media organised by the Netherlands Embassy in collaboration with the Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association, GARDJA in Accra, Mr. Wits maintained, that Ghana and West Africa remains particularly important as a destination for not only European agricultural products but also critical knowledge transfer.
“I think there are two things for having someone in West Africa. The first thing is that it goes to show that in Europe we really see in West Africa a very exciting but also very important movement going on; a lot of people being born, the population growth is huge. That means two things; a huge market that we want to be part of. It also means that we want to engage with this region because we are interlinked and very much dependent on each other,” he said.
Mr. Bram Wits further intimated, that “what I want to do here in the coming years is to create a foothold for Dutch agricultural and food companies to be able to come to West Africa and really be part of this growing opportunity of getting our products first, but also very important, our knowledge and our techniques to West Africa because we can make money from that, and we like that. But it is also something that we like to do to help and also develop the agricultural sector here in Ghana and the other countries in the region.”
On the issue of bilateral relations between the two countries, Mr. Wits noted that the government of the Netherlands tends to be different from other development partners in that it focuses more now on trade instead of aid. He indicated that for the next four years the Dutch government will intensify its existing programs in cocoa, palm oil and horticulture by deepening the marketing viability for the various players, especially the farmers in those subsectors.
The agricultural counselor emphasizing the changing dynamics of agriculture, said its development has to be market oriented and done by business people, cautioning, that it should not merely be a way of life as it is being done by many people in the country.
“Agriculture is a business endeavor. The only way for the sector to grow and to be able to feed all these mouths is for people to start treating it as a business endeavor,” he said.
“Think every day, who is my client; who am I going to sell my goods to; how can I improve! Not just going to do field work and do what you do; and I think this mentality, and the knowledge and the tools to actually do so, that’s something the Netherlands can bring; and I really want to bring,” he added.
The Netherlands currently maintains an enviable position as the biggest exporter of agricultural products worldwide, second only to the United States, though its land size is just about a tenth of Ghana’s. It also boasts of a big harbour in Rotterdam, which serves as an entry and exit point for the European agricultural market.
Story by: Nana Agyeman-Prempeh