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Minnesota Department of Agriculture promotes trade in its first trip to Africa

The visit was organized by Minnesota Africans United with support from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana and the U.S. Embassy.

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Patrice Bailey, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, with U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Virginia Palmer, and her staff at the U.S. Embassy.
Contributed by Minnesota Department of Agriculture
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The Minnesota Department of Agriculture took its first trade mission to Ghana this month. 

On July 5-9, Patrice Bailey, assistant agriculture commissioner, took part in a trade mission and business conference in Ghana. The visit was organized by Minnesota Africans United with support from the MDA, the American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana and the U.S. Embassy. 

“This is the first time that MDA has been to Africa,” said Bailey. “And that is monumental in the fact that we have about 5,000 Ghanaians that live in Minnesota.”

The delegates included business leaders from various sectors such as agribusiness, healthcare and renewable energy, who Bailey said were in the country to explore possible partnerships to bolster trade and investment between Minnesota and Ghana. 

Bailey said the visit helped energize relationships between Minnesota, Ghana and Cameroon. While in Ghana, he was able to meet the newly installed U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Virginia Palmer at the U.S. Embassy. 

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He also met with members of the U.S. Commercial Service and U.S. Department of Commerce who gave an overview of what the trade issues are in the country. 

Companies such as 3M and Land O’Lakes have already invested in Ghana for different products, but Bailey said the country is focusing on boosting its energy sector through trade. 

One of the country’s biggest agricultural products is cocoa. 

“You’re looking at 30 million people (in Ghana), and it’s sort of a unique country because if you were looking on a map, it’s zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude,” said Bailey. “So you're sort of right in the middle of the world.”

The central location makes Ghana positioned to handle any type of trade, said Bailey. Still, the country imports a lot more goods than it exports.

“That poses a problem for any country, in terms of resources coming in, versus resources going out,” said Bailey. 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 57% of the country’s total land area is classified as “agricultural”, and 60% of all farms in the country are less than 1.2 hectares – which is equal to about three acres. 

The two Ghanaian farmers that Bailey met were focused on aquaculture. What he found most interesting about the farming in Ghana was a lot of the land access was determined by what family had been there the longest.

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“Instead of land it’s basically lineage,” he said. “If I wanted to go to someone's land to do some agricultural work, the first thing they would ask is what’s your last name.”

At the business conference, Bailey shared information on Minnesota agriculture as well as the department’s Emerging Farmers program. 

“I think it was very well received,” Bailey said. “Not only being able to tell the story of Minnesota, for one, but also Minnesota agriculture, and what Minnesota has to offer."

Related Topics: MINNESOTA
Noah Fish is a multimedia journalist who creates print, online and TV content for Agweek. He's also the host of the Agweek Podcast. He covers a wide range of farmers and agribusinesses throughout Minnesota and surrounding states. He can be reached at nfish@agweek.com

He reports out of Rochester, MN, where he lives with his wife, Kara, and their polite cat, Zena. He grew up in La Crosse, WI, and enjoys the talent from his home state like the 13-time World Champion Green Bay Packers and Grammy award-winning musicians Justin Vernon and Al Jarreau.
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