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Agric to receive more support

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, has pledged the commitment of the government to transform the entire value chain within the agricultural sector to enable it grow to realise its fullest potential.

He said the review of the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF) Act leaves a lot of opportunity for the players in the sector, adding that funds for the cultivation of crops to the harvesting and processing of agriculture produce in the country would receive major financial support.

Mr Iddrisu, made this known when a delegation from the Ghana Cashew Industry Association paid a courtesy call on him at his office at the ministries in Accra.

“We cannot sit down as a ministry to see funds needed for better things in the country sitting in the banks while industrialists and entrepreneurs suffer because of lack of funds to enable them to realise their potential”, he said.

Presently, a nine-member committee to review the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF) Act to make it more responsive to the needs of the private sector has thus been inaugurated.

The law has been in place for the past 12 years and the review is to ensure that it reflected current needs of the private sector, especially the manufacturing industry.

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The committee will review and re-align the ACT to make it robust and strong to address the challenges of the private sector.

They will also look at the source of funding for the fund, which is the 0.5 per cent contribution of imports with the view to upwardly adjust it to make more funds available for beneficiaries.

The EDAIF Act 2011 (Act 823) replaced the Export Development and Investment Fund (EDIF) enacted by Act 582 in 2000 to provide financial resources for the development and promotion of the export trade of Ghana.

Act 582 was amended for Act 823 “to include the provision of financial resources for the development and promotion of agriculture relating to agro-processing and agro-processing industry”.

Presently, there are a number of agitations from beneficiaries who complain about the high interest rate charged for accessing the funds, while others blame the banks for using the funds for other purposes other than its intended purpose.

But the Trade and Industry Minister gave the assurance that the committee would take all those issues and concerns into consideration and address them accordingly.

SUPPORT FOR CASHEW

Narrowing his comments to the cashew industry in the country, he said the cashew industry was to receive a major boost with technical and financial support from the government to double current production levels by 2016.

As a result, 30 districts from five regions; Volta, Brong Ahafo, Upper West, Northern and Eastern are to be used as a pilot to increase production from the estimated 40,000 tonnes per year to about 80,000 tonnes.

“The support will go to small holder farmers in each of the six districts to be selected from a district to enable them to increase their production levels to meet the target set and this support will come for them to start immediately this year”, he said.

He said it was long overdue for the country to benefit from the cashew potential in the country and expressed the hope that, “an increase in production will bring about more employment while the exports will also bring about additional foreign exchange”.

Mr Iddrisu, who is also the Member of Parliament for Tamale Central, said the ministry would also ensure that companies in the cashew value chain business were also supported with funds from the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF).

Presently, more than 95 per cent of cashew produced in the country was exported to other countries including Brazil.

Mr Iddrisu described the phenomenon as unfortunate and pledged the support of the government to do all it could to ensure that the potentials in the industry were fully harnessed.

On his part, Mr Winfred Osei Owusu, the acting President of the association, was pleased about the intention of the ministry to support the growth of the industry.

He said the potential in the cashew business was huge and noted that “there is a lot land available to produce the crop and the market too is there but we need the funds to be able to produce to meet the high demand”.

Mr Osei, who is also the Chief Executive officer of West African Market Links, said support for the value chain in the cashew industry was also necessary to help with the processing of the nuts before they were exported.

Ms Yayra Afua Amedzro, the Convenor of the association, indicated that the farmers in the cashew industry were determined to increase their production and expressed the hope that support from the ministry would go a long way to enable them achieve their potential.

Story: Charles Benoni Okine/Graphic Business