Agric sector faces challenges

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Underfunding of agriculture is depriving the establishment of functioning mechanisation centres to maintain equipment such as these combined harvestersThe country’s agricultural sector is tumbling very fast, with growth targets frequently missed while resources needed for the ministry to carry out its core mandate are chopped off significantly.

Out of the total of over GH¢745 million, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) asked to prosecute its plans and programmes for 2013, only GH¢292 million, representing 39 per cent of its planned budget, was approved in the 2013 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government.

As though that is not enough, the ministry received its first quarter allocation only a few weeks ago.

The Deputy Director of Budget at MOFA, Mr Daniel Ohemeng-Boateng, who presented the details to a section of journalists at a Budget Tracking forum in Accra on August 7, said although personnel emoluments was 100 per cent approved, there was a funding gap of GH¢96.3 million for goods and services and GH¢356.4 million funding gap for assets.            

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The forum was organised by the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ) and sponsored by Star Ghana, a development advocacy grant. A multi-donor pooled funding aims at increasing the influence of civil society and Parliament in the governance of public goods and service delivery.

The IFEJ/Star Ghana advocacy programme on the performance of the 2013 budget and expectations for 2014, was on the theme, “Tracking the Performance of the 2013 Budget Statement and Expectations for 2014.”

The Agric ministry’s funding situation remains the same for recent years and this has led to the under performance of the agricultural sector of the economy.

The agric sector ceased to be the largest contributor to the country’s productivity index or gross domestic product (GDP), losing its stellar place to the services sector, dominated by information and communications technology (ICT), which now contributes about 50 per cent according to the 2012 GDP releases.

Agriculture, which contributes about 23 per cent to GDP, grew by 1.3 per cent in 2012, against a target of 4.8 per cent and 0.8 per cent in 2011.

In 2010 the sector grew by 4.8 per cent against a target of 6.0 per cent. The agricultural sector grew by 6.2 per cent in 2009, against a target of 5.7 per cent.

The 1.3 per cent growth of the agricultural sector, the lowest in decades, compares unfavourably with industry’s 7.0 per cent growth rate and services’ 10.2 per cent growth rate.

The service sector remains the largest with a share of 50 per cent of GDP, followed by industry (27.3%) and Agriculture 22 per cent.

Some of the agric sub-sectors such as fishing recorded a negative growth of 8.7 per cent in 2011 and 2.3 per cent in 2012.

Agriculture’s share of employment has also reduced from over 60 per cent before year 2000 to 37.3 per cent as recorded by the 2010 Population and Housing Census.

Dutch Disease

Analysts are divided as to whether the so-called ‘Dutch Disease’ is here in Ghana. This is because, while oil and gas has started contributing significant inflows with concomitant investments in that sector, the fate of agriculture seems to be the exact opposite.

For 2013, however, Mr Ohemeng-Boateng said the ministry would continue to focus on its mandate of accelerating the modernisation of agriculture to transform the economy through the introduction of technologies.

He said the main policy interventions were in crops and livestock sub sectors including seed improvement, buffer stock management, irrigation, livestock and quality standardisation.

“The result will be increased productivity, incomes and export earnings, food security, supply of raw materials for value addition and rural development,” Mr Ohemeng-Boateng explained.

Agricultural mechanisation

The deputy director of budget said the ministry had so far established 89 mechanisation centres across the country to ensure access to mechanisation facilities for farmers.

Already for the first half of the year, the ministry had taken delivery of 100 units of cabrio agricultural tractors (50hp) from Czech Republic in semi-knocked down form, Mr Ohemeng-Boateng said.

“These were assembled and distributed on hire purchase to individual vegetable farmers with fragile soils for land preparation.” GB

By Samuel Doe Ablordeppey / Graphic  Business / Ghana