Maize production in Ghana is currently facing 80 per cent average yield gap, a situation threatening food security, the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana has said.
Maize is a very important staple and most cultivated cereal in terms of volume and area, as it is the most consumed cereal in the country.
A research conducted by ISSER, in partnership with the Wageningen University and Research (WUR) of Netherlands, has revealed that maize yield in Ghana is lower than the African average and much lower than those achieved in regions in Asia and South America.
This is in spite of the numerous interventions made by the government in maize production in the country.
The Government, through the research institutions and donor partners, has also introduced improved maize varieties to farmers, which have only marginally increased maize yields from about 1.2 tonnes per hectare in 1990 to 1.7 tonnes per hectare in 2014, representing a growth of only 20 kilograms per hectare per year.
At a roundtable Policy Workshop organised by ISSER in Accra on Monday, Professor Samuel Adjei-Nsiah, of the Forest and Horticultural Crops Research Centre, University of Ghana, said studies done in selected African countries revealed a general high yield gap in maize production in Africa.
“It come out that in Ghana there was a yield gap of 8.5 tonnes per hectare,” Prof Adjei-Nsiah said.
He said further studies in 2015/2016 to ascertain the causes of the large yield gap in maize also revealed that some of the farmers used less fertilizers or misapplied fertilisers, while the fall army worm infestation, coupled with long drought, affected maize yields in Savelugu and Nkoranza, the study sites.
He said Ghana was currently producing 20 per cent of the potential maize yields that it could produce, saying the country could work to help get at least 10.5 tonnes per yield.
Prof. Adjei-Nsiah said the studies partitioned the yield gap into the technical efficiency gap, economic yield gap, allocation yield gap and the technology yield gap.
These gaps, he noted, could be closed by improving the work of extension services through policies like provision of access to credit, inputs and also investment in research and development.
He said crop insurance also needed to be provided for farmers, who mainly produced to feed the country and run into problems like flood, droughts, pests and disease infestation.
“We are saying that farmers could be insured against some of these risks by paying some premium so that in case of such disasters, they could be compensated for the loss they incurred,” Prof. Adjei-Nsiah said.
He noted that the outcome of the roundtable would, therefore, inform policy makers and other partners on measures to take to improve the situation of maize yields gap.
The various stakeholders that participated in the workshop agreed that concerted efforts were needed urgently to work to close the gap.
Meanwhile, the studies have further revealed that between 2010 and 2015, the average area under maize cultivation was about 1,064,000 hectors (22% of cropland area).
Over the same period the production levels averaged 1,788,667 tonnes, which is three times more than the next most cultivated cereal (rice) in Ghana.
The studies indicated that maize is mostly cultivated by smallholder farmers and majority of its production is used for food and also become a critical input in the poultry sector in recent times.
The research shows that maize yields have marginally increased from about 1.2 tonnes per hector in 1990 to 1.7 tonnes per hector in 2014, which represents a growth of only 20 kilogrammes per hector (kg/ha) per year.
It also showed that Ghana’s cereal self-sufficiency ratio currently stands at 0.72, indicating the country’s dependence on imports for her cereal needs.
The situation could worsen dramatically to a ratio of 0.3 if the maize yield gap keeps growing at the 16 (kg/ha) per year rate, the studies noted.
With a predicted national population of Ghana likely to rise from 24 million to 50 million with increase in consumption and with the county’s low self-sufficiency ratio, “a high dependency on cereal imports was potential risk for food security.’’
Professor Felix Ankomah Asante, the Director of ISSER, said: “We are doing this because we expect that the population will double by 2050, and land is also becoming scarce so we have to make maximum use of the piece of land.
“So if we are able to bridge this gap then we can get more output per unit for the piece of land and that is very important for our food security issues.”
Mr Tomas Morley, a Research Fellow at Wageningen University and Research, said the research was important in providing better understanding for policy makers to address the issue of maize yield gaps.
“We have broken down the yield gaps so that we know with more certainty what the components of the yield gaps are, which ones are the largest and that should help policy makers to decide which policies to follow to try and tackle this yield gaps,” he said.
Mr Morley said the findings had, therefore, given detailed perspective of the situation and how best it could be addressed.
He said addressing the situation would be profitable to the country as it could increase input and yields.