I am very happy to be here this morning, and to be in the presence of the men and women whose toil, on a daily basis, feeds us, keeps us alive, and plays an important role towards the development of our country. Without the work of our farmers and fisherfolk, it is certain that we cannot realize the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 2, which requires that we seek sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by 2030, achieve food security and improve nutrition. With the majority of the Ghanaian people involved in agriculture, a day set aside to celebrate their achievements is well-deserved, and let me reassure our farmers and fisherfolk of Government’s continued support and solidarity with them.
Today is also about the policy makers and implementers, businessmen along the agricultural value chain, research institutions, and other key actors in the agricultural sector. Building synergies, through the effective collaboration of these stakeholders, is essential if we are to succeed in achieving the nation’s goals in the agricultural sector.
Ladies and gentlemen, the theme for this year’s celebration, “Agriculture: Moving Ghana Beyond Aid”, imposes a duty on all of us to help ensure that the self-reliance we seek in all aspects of our national life encompasses agriculture. This means that we have to take bold decisions, underpinned by strong political will, to move away from the practice of business as usual, to an innovative and results-driven approach of doing things in the sector. It requires a paradigm shift from production-based to business-oriented agriculture, which promotes value chain development and entrepreneurship. The agenda of transforming agriculture calls for investing our resources in critical areas of the sector, with a view to stimulating growth on a sustainable basis.
Government is doing everything possible to put agriculture on the path of transformation. Since assuming office, we have left no one in doubt about the importance of agriculture as one of the cogs for accelerating economic growth. 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.
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 signaled 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.
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 subsidized 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
Chairperson, 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 groundwater;
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 foodstuff, 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 harbors and landing sites. The ten sites are Teshie, Axim, Dixcove, Elmina, Winneba, Mumford, Senya Beraku, Fetteh-Gomoah, Moree and Keta.
Chairperson, as much as we are on course, we recognize that we are by no means out of the woods yet. Our strategy of linking agriculture to industry, under the One District One Factory Programme, value chain development, and diversification, improving agricultural infrastructure and mechanization, amongst others, will be aggressively pursued in 2019.
Ours is a government for farmers and fisherfolk. We will continue to prove this by deeds and not by mere rhetoric. Evidence abounds for all to see that the agricultural sector is receiving unprecedented support through massive investment aimed at transforming and modernizing the sector.
I invite all partners to continue to work closely with government to ensure that the potential of the agricultural sector is fully maximized for the benefit of the people of this country. We will continue to work hard to ensure agriculture regains its pride of place in the country, and our farmers and fisherfolk are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Now, Chairperson, to a very important announcement, which will equally be of much interest to our farmers and fisherfolk. This year, Government has added to the national awards package for farmers and fisherfolk, a total of twenty-four (24) scholarships for the wards of farmers and fisherfolk. The scholarships are for local tertiary programmes ranging from First Degree to Ph.D., in any agricultural subject of their choice. This gesture is a further testimony of government’s commitment to making agriculture attractive to all, especially the youth.
I want to end by thanking and congratulating the farmers of Ghana for their great response to Government’s programme for “Planting for Food and Jobs”, which has enabled our country not only to experience a bumper harvest this year, but also, for the first time in a long while, to export food to our neighbours. I appeal to them to give even greater support to our policies in agriculture as they unfold.
In conclusion, Chairperson, it is often said that “if you can read, thank a teacher”. Should we not then have the farmer and fisherfolk’s version – “if you have eaten today, thank a farmer and a fisherman”.
May God bless our farmers and fisherfolk, and may God bless us all, and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
I thank you for your attention.