Ghana’s agricultural sector employs nearly half ot eh country’s workforce and contributes one-fifth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The sector is characterized by a wide variety of plants. Various studies show that Ghana has a two-speed agricultural sector, the food production, and export-oriented segments, with the latter showing significant growth over the last few years.
Among many crops gaining traction is mango. Ghana exports 40 percent of its total mango produce, with about 60 percent of it consumed locally.
For every aspiring farmer, that begs several questions. For instance, how can you cash in on the mango trade, and how best would you position yourself for the foreign and local markets?
Here is an in-depth guide to help you start a mango farming business in Ghana.
An overview of the mango farming industry
Ghana’s mango farming industry has been on a steady rise for the past two decades.
Albeit relatively younger than most competitors, Ghans’s mango farming industry, having begun commercial production in the early 2000s, is rapidly expanding. Production cuts across the entire country but the eastern and Ahafo regions are the country’s leading players in the mango trade.
Ghana has two mango seasons, April to august, which is the major, and another one running from November to January. Ghana’s seasons give it an advantage over major competitors like Brazil and Peru. Ghana’s mango farming industry is one of the few active shippers of mangoes from May to June when many other large-scale competitors face shortages.
Another advantage Ghana enjoys over South American countries, which are the most preferred sources for European mango importing countries, is the short transit time. Despite these advantages, the Ghanaian farming industry has various challenges in leveraging its opportunities for an increased market share on a global scale.
These challenges are mainly technical, agronomical, and structural. A typical example will be the acreage structure for mango production, putting about 60 percent of the mango production below within small to medium scale. Many mango farmers also practice traditional or subsistence farming practices.
For instance, about 94 percent of all mangoes are dominated by one cultivar (Keitt). The over-reliance on this cultivar shortens the production window of Ghanaian mango farmers, leading to a large seasonal variation in production. It also leads to crop failure sponsored by Ghana’s highly unpredictable rainfall pattern.
Another challenge plaguing the Ghanaian mango industry is the issue of pest infestation often caused by fruitflies and mango seed weevils. The cations of these pests affect the quality of mangoes produced and limit farmers efforts to promote their mangoes for the foreign market.
Ghana’s mango industry, although young, has an average farmer size above age forty which is a general reflection of how the country’s youthful population treats agric. Many of these old farmers are less savvy when it comes to modern farm practices and leveraging innovative tools.
This has piqued the interests of the government and enabled agricultural stakeholders to promote agric to the youth and help them with tools and strategies to scale the industry’s commonest challenges.
Impact of the mango farming sector on the Ghanaian Economy
Mango farming is assuming great economic importance in Ghana. The Ghana Exports Promotions Center (GEPA) estimates that the total export value for mangoes will reach 64.6 million dollars in 2021, increasing from the 50.3 million dollars figure in 2020.
According to a study by GHana’s Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute, mango holds significant promise as the next non-traditional export crop to generate the highest foreign exchange for Ghana.
Apart from revenue generation, mango farming provides numerous opportunities for the Ghanaian youth. It is estimated that a one-acre mango farm employs 1.5 persons. With Ghana’s total mango farms constituting over 31,000 acres, the country’s mango farming industry employs about 47 to 50 thousand people.
Steps to start a mango business in Ghana
There is no one way to venture into the mango business. It all depends on the business strategy or farming approach you consider.
Some people partner with thriving farms, providing farmers with essential resources and tools so they can focus on the commercialization of the trade. Others, wanting more production and quality control, would cultivate their farms and determine the best commercial strategies.
Here are some steps to help you start a mango business in Ghana.
Check the variety of mango you want to use.
In-depth knowledge of different mango varieties is crucial to venture into mango farming. There are numerous mango varieties in Ghana; each has perks and downsides.
Take the Alphonso mango, which dates back to the 15th century. It is a seasonal fruit usually cultivated from mid-April to June. Alphonso mangoes are known worldwide for their taste, fragrance, and yellow-golden vibrant color.
They are rich, creamy, and have a tender texture and a delicate, non-fibrous, juicy pulp. These mangoes are also healthy, with a less than one percent fat content. They come with high-water content, high amounts of potassium, and magnesium, which can even aid in weight loss.
Alphonso mango trees grow can best fit Ghana’s warm temperate climates. Young seedlings need bright and indirect sunlight. As the seedlings grow, they require more sunlight, about six to ten hours of sun daily, and the soil must be rich and well-drained. It can take about five to eight years to harvest the first Alphonso mango fruit.
Alphonso mangoes absorb nutrients and sugars from the tree during the final stages toward harvest. You can try kerosene mangoes which take a shorter time to grow and work best as a base for grafting into another tree.
Alphonso and Kerosene mangoes are the most popular mango cultivars in Ghana. You can also consider lippense mango, Benue mango, and the German mango if you want to diversify your yield. Most large-scale farmers can consult agronomists to help them make the best choice for their mango farming business.
Ultimately, you can combine multiple options if you’re unclear about the cultivar option to choose and don’t have the means to hire an agronomist.
Choose your location
The location you choose for your mango farming is crucial to its success. It determines not only the quantity of harvest but the quality of yield you produce.
Choosing a viable location is a must, especially if you plan on exporting your mango harvest to a foreign market. You may need to perform multiple levels of soil testing if you partner with existing mango farmers. Mangoes grow across many regions in Ghana, including the northern region. But you may want to consider the Ahafo and Volta regions for commercial large-scale mango farming.
Mango farming requires high water retention soil types. Therefore, your best bet is to use loamy, alluvial, well-drained, and deep soils. Ensure the land at your chosen location comes with soil rich in organic matter with a pH range between 5.5 and 7.5. you can consult an agronomist or soil scientist to help you choose a favorable location.
Some farmers work with the grain if the location only has clayey soil. Clayey soil can sustain mango planting but requires a deeper planting approach to achieve easy soil penetration.
Prepare the land
Prepping your farmland to make it suitable for farming takes time, but it’s worth it. Start by deep plowing and leveling the land. You can create slops on the land to help with drainage. Planting mangoes also requires space for sunlight and enough air to clear grasses or trees that can constrict space. When is the best time to prepare your land? It depends on the season you choose.
Generally, the last quarter of the year can suffice for both July to August or February to March seasons. Fertilizer and manure application are also important to your land preparation efforts. The soil for your mango farming should be organically rich with nutrients like potash, nitrogen, phosphorous, boron, etc.
After inspecting your location with soil experts, you may identify whether the soil is sufficient or insufficient in these nutrients. Your farmland size influences the amount of fertilizer application you’ll need for your mango farm.
Generally, you can apply 20 tonnes of cow dung manure per hectare. Liaise with soil experts to determine the right amount of nitrogen and other fertilizer types for your mango farm. Many established mango farmers also use urea, applying it to the base of mango trees when they begin to flower.
Grafted mango trees easily bear fruits and are easier to manage than producing seedling tees. Therefore it’s important to adopt the best plant propagation practices like grafting to optimize your yield. Grafting is the process of transferring bearing mango trees to separate the rootstock or seedling.
If you must use the seedling approach for your, you can firstly plant them in a nursery, allowing them to germinate. After about two to three weeks, you can transplant it to a permanent location.
Choosing between these two propagation methods is mostly a matter of scale. Many commercial mango farmers opt for multiple grafting techniques like epicotyl, veneer, arching, etc., while the other option works best for subsistence mango farming.
Mangoes develop on the branches. As your grafted mangoes develop, it’s crucial to ensure that the branches mature without challenges. Pruning can start at early as the infancy stage of your tree to maintain its height. The most popular way to prune your mango tree is to make a 3-inches cut at the center of a branch that has begun to shoot. You can repeat the process if the branch reaches about 2–inches long. Usually, mango farmers can prune consistently for about two to three years before harvest.
Pest and Diseases Control
Diseases like powdery mildew, Phytophthora, bacterial flower disease stem-end roots, etc., are the most common diseases for mango farmers in Ghana. As you start your mango farm, knowing more about these diseases can help nurture your mango trees, especially at their tender stage.
However, using products not recommended by the market can affect your yield and your farm’s export worthiness. It’s crucial to run all your pest and disease control methods and products by your local extension officers before applying them on your farm.
Irrigation in Mango Farming
Mango trees dont require too much water. The bigger your land size, the more water you may need for your mango farm. However, an inconsistent irrigation schedule can adversely affect production. Irrigation over a two to three-day interval can suffice for the first year. As the farm grows, you can increase the duration to ten and 15 days. You can stop irrigating after the farm attains full growth.
Steps to register a mango farming business in Ghana
A business registration permit is a must-have, especially if you want to export your mangoes. There is no right time to register your farm business in Ghana.
Many new farmers would often want more convincing that their mango venture would pick up. So they tend to consider the registration when they’re ready to harvest their first yield.
The first step is to visit the Registrar General’s department office in your local area to seek a permit for your mango farming business.
After, you can consult agricultural extension officers in your operational area for a thorough assessment and further action.
Farming in Ghana is a lucrative venture, even though many of the country’s farmers operate on a subsistence level. Going full-scale mango farming has various opportunities. For instance, mangoes produce fruits within three to five years.
While it’s in its growing stages, you can merge mango farming with vegetables and other fruits with a shorter production span to help you manage your farm’s cash flow. Ghana already has a favorable climate for mango production. Keeping up with the steps, thus spacing your plants, maintaining regular grafting and irrigation schedules, and controlling your land for pests and diseases.
Is mango farming profitable?
The mango farming industry’s market value crossed over 17 billion dollars in 2019 and is set to reach 19 billion dollars by the end of this year. Mango farming has always been profitable considering the fruit’s nutritional and commercial value worldwide. The industry becomes more lucrative as production processes and manufacturing technologies become more sophisticated.
How expensive is it to venture into mango farming?
Mango trees need about three to four years to attain full yield. Studies show that the investment cost for establishing an acre of mango plantation in Ghana is nearly 12 thousand cedis. You can incur more costs if you set up in an area that requires significant land preparation and fertilizer application.
Where in Ghana should I start my mango farm?
Mango farming can thrive everywhere in Ghana. Predominantly you’ll see most of the farms in the Ahafo regions in Ghana. The Volta and Coastal belts also house various mango farmers. Generally, any organically -rich and deep soil can suffice for your mango farming venture.
How often do mango farmers make losses?
Numerous Ghanaian mango farmers have revealed how difficult it is to maintain a successful mango farm. A Ghana National Mango study conducted on 2012 highlighted that the average national losses after harvest was between 20 to 50 percent. That’s about 30 million dollars and 90 million dollars at the farm gate.
Is there a future for mango farming in Ghana?
Mango farming is gradually taking shape in Ghana across various indicators, including acreage size, yield amounts, and export value. Studies show that the current total acreage size has grown from 12,000 to over nearly 31,000 over a short period. Ghana’s agricultural export policies can also be a huge factor pointing to a bright mango farming future in the country