Processed food on Ghanaian market shelves

How is agri-business faring? Insights from assessments of packaged foods in Ghana’s cities

Although Ghana’s traditional diets are based on a variety of staple crops including cassava, maize, millet, plantain, and rice, contemporary diets are shifting away from, and across these staples as people move to cities and earn higher incomes. Consumption of processed, packaged foods and shopping in modern retail outlets will increasingly become the norm. This transformation is already underway in Accra and other cities. Witness the recent opening of a large shopping mall in Kumasi with large modern retailers such as Shoprite and Game as the anchor shops ( These modern stores offer a range of goods, with processed foods being among the core of the offerings. Dealing with the challenges of the changing food system will require research on the country’s food system, pre-existing and current diet patterns, and the response of the processing sector.

How can Ghana’s agri-business sector, and food processors, take advantage of these diet shifts and food retail transformation? GSSP research on this topic shows that imports dominate the processed food products on sale in Ghanaian cities – around three-quarters of processed food products are imported, and for products such as milled rice, frozen poultry, and processed tomatoes, 83-98 percent of products are imported, depending on the city in question. Imports are not necessarily undesirable – they provide a readily accessible and (sometimes) affordable source of nutrition for Ghana’s growing urban population, many of whom are lower-income households. At the same time, it is important for domestic agri-business to compete adequately in at least some niches of food processing. This would generate jobs and serve as a source of growth for primary agricultural inputs used in food processing.

For domestic processing, there are some glimmers of hope from the processed food inventories. For non-rice milled products such as packaged maize cereals and milled plantain and cassava, domestic processors are selling a range of products in modern retail outlets, and packaging quality for domestic products is almost on par with imports. Domestic processing and packaging is heavily clustered around Accra. Around 95 percent of domestic products found in Accra, and on average 67 percent of domestic products found in seven other cities, are processed in Accra. Our current research includes interviews with domestic processors to understand the underlying challenges, such as low productivity of primary production, the costs of processing, and lack of infrastructure. The findings will provide a basis for policy discussions, and we invite you to read the papers (links provided below) and to comment on the interesting research questions around this topic, such as the scale and capacity of domestic processing, sources of inputs, and sales channels.


For further details, please click on links to related papers below:

  1. Is Ghana Making Progress in Agro-Processing? Evidence from an Inventory of Processed Food Products in Retail Shops in Accra. Andam, K., Al-Hassan, R.M., Asante, S.B., Diao, X. 2015. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); Ghana Strategy Support Program (GSSP) Working Paper No. 41. Available at:
  2. Food Processing in Ghana: Trends, Constraints, and Opportunities. Andam, K.S., Silver, J. 2016. Ghana Strategy Support Program Policy Note 11, IFPRI, Washington DC. Available at

Observing Ghana’s food system transformation through an assessment of processed food retail in four major cities. Andam, K. S., Tschirley, D., Asante, S., Diao, X., Al-Hassan, R. 2017. Presented at the Conference on Economic Development in Africa, March 19-22, 2017, University of Oxford, Center for the Study of African Economies: Oxford, United Kingdom. Available at