An assessment of the effects of Ghana’s trade policy on agro-processing SMEs in the Eastern Region

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Trade remains an integral part of the development process in the world. Ghana, a developing country, has a rich agricultural base on which various agro-processing SMEs depend to provide an economic livelihood for many Ghanaians in the informal sector. There have been several attempts since independence to harness the potential of agriculture through a robust agro-processing sector designed to provide the needed linkages between agriculture and industry. However many agro-processing SMEs are still confronted with several challenges including lack of access to appropriate technology; limited access to international markets, the existence of laws, regulations and rules that impede the development of the sector; weak institutional capacity, lack of management skills and training, and most importantly finance. This study attempted to examine the awareness levels of Ghana Trade Policy (GTP), the factors that influence the responses to GTP and the effect of GTP programmes and projects in alleviating the plight of most SMEs. Through a blend of quantitative and qualitative techniques, data were extracted from agro-processing SMEs in the West Akim municipal, Akuapim South municipal and Kwaebibirem district using the process-outcome model and a paired t-test in the analysis of the effects of GTP programmes and policy. The study revealed that generally there were low level of awareness and understanding of the GTP programmes and projects among agro-processing SMEs. These greatly affected the response leading to low or minimal effects of the GTP projects and programmes on agro-processing enterprises in the three districts. The level of awareness is indexed to literacy rates of the entrepreneurs. It was found that SMEs involved in oil palm processing, especially, had a lower rate of literacy and therefore were not aware of GTP programmes that are literacy based as opposed to operators of citrus and pineapple enterprises who had a minimum of secondary education. Also despite relative awareness and understanding of GTP programmes and projects, citrus and pineapple processing SMEs had not taken advantage of these programmes and projects due to accessibility problems and participatory cost. In addition, the majority of sampled enterprises (73%) had been in operation for less than 10 years and therefore had low levels of networking experience, which influenced their accessibility to the GTP. The t-test also revealed that apart from annual output of citrus and pineapple enterprises that responded positively to GTP programmes and projects, all other indicators tested using the t-test at 5% level of significance responded negatively.
A Thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Development Policy and Planning.