More impetus for GhanaCARES programme - Greater focus on agric to create jobs

BY: Charles Benoni Okine
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister of Finance, delivering the 2022 Budget Statement
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister of Finance, delivering the 2022 Budget Statement

The government yesterday announced its intentions to bring additional impetus to the implementation of the GhanaCARES “Obaatan Pa” programme, meant to accelerate the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, provide financial resources to boost the private sector growth and offer resources for the youth development.

As a result, the government is actively engaging the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) to leverage it’s acquired experience in transformative development programme management to achieve that objective which also falls clearly under the President’s vision of a “Ghana Beyond Aid”.

Modernising agric

Outlining the details of the initiative as he laid the 2022 Budget statement in Parliament yesterday, Mr Ofori-Atta said “Mr Speaker, in alignment with government’s overall vision and medium-term priorities, accelerated Agricultural Modernisation is a major intervention under GhanaCARES.

The objective is to build on existing programmes, such as “Planting for Food and Jobs” and “Rearing for Food and Jobs”, by supporting commercial farming (particularly by the educated youth) and agro-processing for value addition in order to ensure rapid competitive food-import substitution, job creation, exports, and industrialisation.”

According to him, a critical component of the agricultural modernisation programme is to register and create an electronic database of farmers to provide ready access to relevant information such as farm size, digital location, types of crops, yields, and market linkages.

“The ultimate aim of the database is to improve tracking, targeting, efficiency and transparency in public support programmes to the sector.

The database will also have a platform with a feature for tracking fertilizer and seed distribution to reduce malpractices to enable us extend more support to our farmers,” he said.

Mr Ofori-Atta said a total of 579,662 individuals, comprising 547,126 farmers and 32,536 value-chain actors, have been registered as at end-October 2021.

This represents 45.6 per cent of the 1.2 million farmers targeted for 2021.

With the deployment of additional electronic recording devices and increase in personnel, it is anticipated that the registration rate will reach 90 per cent by end-December 2021.

“Mr. Speaker, Government engaged various actors in the agricultural value-chain with the view to understanding the binding constraints in the poultry, rice, soya and tomato sub-sectors, he said.

As a result of this engagement, Mr Ofori-Atta said a framework to provide what he described as ‘Building a Sustainable Entrepreneurial Nation: Fiscal Consolidation and Job Creation 81’ interest rate subsidy to agribusinesses in these value chains were developed to address the financing constraints of the actors.

He said the interest rate subsidy intervention will grant 50 per cent subsidy on Financial Institutions’ (FIs) interest charges for loans advanced to qualified agribusinesses to secure equipment and expand working capital.

Working with financial institutions

The Finance Minister said, MoFA, in collaboration with GIRSAL and nine selected financial institutions, is working to roll out the interest rate subsidy support. “Extensive sensitisation of value chain actors on the modalities for the interest rate subsidy is ongoing to ensure easy, timely and increased uptake of the support.

To boost tomato production and reduce annual imports by 50 per cent by 2025, the CARES programme is facilitating the introduction of improved varieties of tomato developed jointly by the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

“Government will take steps to multiply and release the new varieties on approval by the Seed Council.

Additionally, MoFA has engaged the Soil Irrigation and Research Centre (SIREC) to undertake soil testing to guide the design of appropriate soil and nutrient management programmes to increase productivity of the local tomato varieties,” he added.

Again, he said “Mr. Speaker, through the support of the CARES programme, a comprehensive strategy was developed to make information more accessible to attract youth into agriculture.”

Web-page redesign

Mr Ofori-Atta said the agribusiness window of the MoFA web page is being re-designed to provide information on rewarding opportunities in agriculture and this will be ready by end-March 2022.

He said with the lessons learnt from this year, and the relationships built so far, the following key activities will be completed in 2022: Register additional three million farmers; Extend interest rate subsides to at least 50 commercial actors in the poultry, soya, rice, and tomato value chains to provide affordable financing; and Collaborate with the Ghana Enterprise Agency (GEA) and the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP), to provide starter packs for youth in the poultry, rice, soya, and tomato value chains.

Again there will be; Support for the development of 9,000 hectres in rain-fed lowland in rice growing regions for commercial farming.

This is expected to produce additional 31,500Mt of rice and also generate about 3,600 direct jobs with 40 percent being the youth; Support the rehabilitation and expansion of irrigation schemes in rice growing areas to provide 1,000ha of land and produce additional 11,000Mt of rice.