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Challenges of soyabean farmers

Vendors at a grain market in a small town in Ghana. Photo: Shutterstock

Soyabeans are an important crop for smallholders in Ghana. Since 2015, the prices smallholders are paid for soyabeans have declined due to a fall in the world market price and massive import of cheap soyabeans, as well as frequent breakdowns at the processing mills.

Soyabeans have become an important crop in northern Ghana over the past decade and is grown mainly by smallholders. Soyabeans are an important source of edible oil and high-quality protein for both humans and livestock. The residues after the oil has been extracted are an excellent source of high-quality feed for the poultry and fish (aquaculture) industries, where the product is in high demand.


The good price paid for soyabean grain between 2005 and 2012 encouraged smallholders to increase production. The area under production in northern Ghana rose from 44,545 ha in 2004 to 85,938 ha in 2011. However, the market for soyabeans and products produced locally has been declining rapidly due to since 2015 due to imports of cheap soyabean cake into the country from Argentina, the USA, Belgium, the Netherlands and Paraguay.

Smallholders in northern Ghana want to produce soya cake for animal feed. Unfortunately they face lots of challenges. Photo: Daniel Akakpo

In 2018, some 90,000 tons of soyabeans and soyabean products were imported by Ghana, almost all as soya cake for animal feed. This has forced some of the local processing factories to close, eliminating the market for the farmers’ produce, which hit its lowest price since 2015 of USD 250 per ton (compared with the world market price of almost USD 375 per ton).


According to the poultry farmers who purchase the bulk of the soyabean cake processed in the country, they prefer the imported soyabean cake to the locally processed product because of the high oil content of the latter which is not good for preparing poultry feed. Nine of the top ten processing mills in the country use a mechanical method to extract the oil, leaving a substantial amount of oil in the cake which reduces its quality as feed.

Poultry farmers prefer imported soyabean cake to the locally processed product because they have a lower oil content

Besides the lack of a market for locally processed soyabean cake, N2Africa found that the processing mills faced a number of other challenges. These included frequent breakdowns of their machines due to the supply of poor quality grain supplied by farmers (grains mixed with stones), frequent power cuts and the high cost of energy (which almost led to the industry collapsing between 2015 and 2016), high taxes and lack of funding.


N2Africa intervened by training leaders of farmers’ organizations in post-harvest handling and processing to improve the quality of the grain. Maintaining the soyabean value chain in Ghana requires further policy interventions to address the numerous challenges faced by the local processers who purchase the bulk of the grain produced by the smallholders.

Highlights

  • Challenges include the lack of a market for locally processed soyabean cake and frequent breakdowns of the milling machinery due to the poor quality of the grain supplied by farmers (grain mixed with stones).
  • N2Africa intervened by training leaders of farmers’ organizations in post-harvest handling and processing to improve the quality of the grain.
  • There is a massive opportunity to expand smallholder soyabean production to meet the burgeoning demand for poultry feed and fish food in Ghana.
  • This requires policy support and active interventions to overcome the transaction costs in the supply chain to improve quality of production and ensure a better price for farmers.

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