We’re are putting agriculture back on track-Prez

Government is doing everything possible to put agriculture on the path of transformation, President Nana Afufo-Addo has disclosed.

According to the President, since assuming office,his administration have left no one in doubt about the importance of agriculture as one of the cogs for accelerating economic growth.

He said “It is also important to put on record that Ghana’s agriculture was in a state of decline when I became President of the Republic. Prior to 2017, the performance of the sector had been erratic, recording a growth rate of 0.8% in 2011, one of the lowest in modern times. It improved, albeit slightly, to 3.1% in 2016, and that told no better story. This growth pattern was a reflection of a lack of prioritization and support for the agricultural sector by the previous Government. Their neglect of agriculture found expression in low farm yields, high post-harvest losses, low level of mechanization, poorly motivated and low numbers of extension officers, largely unavailable marketing infrastructure, weak linkages to other sectors, and a general lack of access to agric financing.”

He said “Having effectively diagnosed the problems of the sector, the current Government took the decision to tackle comprehensively the issues confronting the sector, and work towards harnessing effectively its potential. The launch of the Programme for “Planting for Food and Jobs” (PFJ), in April 2017, strongly signalled government’s determination to reverse the flagging fortunes of the agricultural sector. Consequently, Planting for Food and Jobs focused on improving the yields of farmers, guaranteeing access to markets, reducing post-harvest losses and enhancing the availability of extension services. Nearly two years into its implementation, I can confidently report that very positive results have been achieved.”

The President added that “In particular, the distribution of farm inputs to farmers, a major component of the programme, has worked very well. The provision of improved seeds and subsidised fertilizer has largely accounted for high farm yields and impressive growth of the agriculture sector of 8.4% at the end of 2017, the first pilot year of the PF

He indicated that for 2018, the projections are looking even much better with higher anticipated levels of success, given the intervention and expansion made in the programme. This year, five hundred and seventy-seven farmers have been enrolled onto the PFJ programme, an increase of seventy-seven thousand (77,000) more farmers, over the targeted figure of five hundred thousand (500,000) in 2018. Of this number, a total of two hundred and seventy-eight thousand (278,000) farmers have been captured through a biometric registration exercise, aimed at developing a reliable farmer database in the country.”

Towards ensuring self-sufficiency in food production, Government has undertaken the following initiatives:
1.advanced arrangement put in place to import farm machinery worth two hundred and sixteen million dollars ($216 million) in 2019. The machinery and equipment will be used to revive the one hundred and sixty-eight (168) existing Agricultural Mechanization Service Centres (AMSECs) across the country, and to establish new ones. The machinery will be used for land preparation, planting, harvesting, and primary processing of produce;

2. construction of eighty (80) new warehouses across the country, each with a capacity of one thousand (1,000) metric tonnes. In addition to these, five (5) existing warehouses have been rehabilitated. An additional thirty (30) warehouses will be constructed in 2019 to increase storage space for anticipated high yields from the PJF intervention. These facilities will be equipped with seed cleaners, dryers and weighing scales, to help address the problem of post-harvest losses;

3.construction and rehabilitation of various dams and dugouts to increase crop production and ensure all year-round farming. So far, in 2018, eighty-three (83) hectares of land have been made available for irrigation. Additional dams will be constructed in 2019 to support the “One Village One Dam” programme. It is projected that one hundred (100) hectares of land will be put under irrigation through surface water abstraction with solar water pumps. A total of 200 boreholes mounted with solar pumps will also be drilled throughout the country to harness ground water;

4.significant improvement to markets with the licensing of over a thousand (1,000) Buying Companies (LBCs) by the National Buffer Stock Company (NAFCO). The LBCs serve as off-takers of farm produce at the farm-gate to guarantee market and incomes for farmers. A total of fifty-two thousand (52,000) metric tonnes of food stuff, such as rice, millet, groundnut and cowpea, have so far been supplied by NAFCO to schools under the Free Senior High School programme;

5.forfeiting Government’s share of the FOB price as part of efforts to protect cocoa farmers from world market shocks. The producer price of cocoa was retained at seven thousand, six hundred Ghana cedis (GH¢7,600.00) per tonne in the 2017/18 crop year, in spite of the drastic fall in world market prices. Additionally, nine hundred and forty-five (945) casual staff were also engaged in the cocoa sector through the implementation of various programmes such as replanting, mass spraying, fertilizer application, hand pollination, mass pruning and cocoa farm irrigation;

6.introduction, this year, of the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) as a module under the PFJ. The objective is to develop six (6) tree crops, i.e. coconut, cashew, coffee rubber, mango and oil palm, as a means of diversifying production and export from the monocrop, cocoa. MMDA’s have been charged and have, indeed, produced millions of seedlings based on targets for the six selected crops under the programme. These seedlings will be distributed free of charge to farmers during 2018/19;

7.Introduction of the Rearing for Food and Jobs, as another module of PFJ in 2019. The objective is to promote the production of selected livestock, namely poultry, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs;

8.recruitment of two thousand, seven hundred (2,700) Agric Extension officers, and some eight thousand (8,000) graduates for the Feed Ghana module of the NABCO programme;

9.introduction of three Greenhouse Villages to offer opportunities for the youth to be trained in intensive vegetable cultivation, using modern technology. So far, one hundred and forty-three (143) graduates have been trained, with fifty (50) of them currently undergoing an eleven-month hands-on training exercise in Israel;

10.supply of two hundred and sixteen (216) pickup vehicles and three thousand (3,000) motorbikes to extension officers and District Directors of Agriculture;

11.rehabilitation of the Ejura College of Agriculture, and a review of the college curriculum to improve extension delivery under a Technical Education Development Programme for the modernisation of Ghana’s agriculture;

12.construction of feeder roads to food producing areas, based on consultations between the Minister for Roads and Highways and Minister for Agriculture. This is a strategy to ensure easy access to food producing areas in the country and to ensure adequate returns on investment;

13.upgrading of inspection facility at the Kotoka International Airport, and other exit points to facilitate inspection procedures in relation to horticultural export commodities. This is to ensure quality and compliance with standards on the international market to boost Ghana’s export of vegetables. Mr. Chairman, the list is by no means exhaustive, as other interventions will surely come on stream in 2019, as presented by the Minister for Finance in the recent budget statement. The positive results so far in the agriculture sector shows that we are on course towards realising the vision of agriculture helping to move Ghana to a situation beyond aid;

14.implementation of the “Aquaculture for Food and Jobs” (AFJ) programme in 2019 to complement the ongoing “Planting for Food and Jobs” (PFJ) initiative. Additionally, three public hatcheries at Ashaiman, Kona Odumase and Vea were rehabilitated to increase fingerling production to meet the demand of fish farmers; and

15.the construction of 10 coastal fishing harbours and landing sites. The ten sites are Teshie, Axim, Dixcove, Elmina, Winneba, Mumford, Senya Beraku, Fetteh-Gomoah, Moree and Keta.

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