The government’s Planting for Food and Jobs programme has received a boost following the signing of a 20-million euro credit between Ghana and the Czech Republic Export Bank.
The money will be divided into two tranches, with the first tranche being utilised for the procurement of 220 sets of compact tractors, while the second tranche will be used to purchase 300 multi-purpose mini tractors.
Beneficiaries will be interested small and medium holder farmers across the country who will be given four years to work and pay for the tractors.
The credit facility comes with no interest payment by the farmers and no financial commitment on the part of the government
The tractors will be supplied by a consortium of companies, led by the Knight a.s Transfer of Technology in the Czech Republic.
Ghana’s Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Knight a.s Transfer of Technology, Dr Karl Laryea, signed the agreement in Brno, the Czech Republic at the opening session of this year's Agriculture Trade Fair Show yesterday.
Planting for Food and Jobs is an initiative of the government launched in April 2017 to encourage the youth to go into agriculture and increase agricultural production.
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The programme is expected to increase the production of maize by 30 per cent, rice by 49 per cent, soybeans by 25 per cent and sorghum by 28 per cent from the current production levels.
Additionally, the initiative is expected to create 750,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Touching on the usefulness of the tractors, Dr Akoto said they would not only help boost agriculture and improve food sufficiency but also create job opportunities for the youth.
He said the agreement was, particularly, beneficial, considering the fact that Ghanaians were small-holder farmers and procuring such tractors would help them improve their productivity.
"This is what the Planting for Food and Jobs programme is all about — supporting small-holder farmers to expand their productivity," he added.
Dr Akoto said he was grateful to Dr Laryea for renewing the age-old relations between the two countries.
For his part, Dr Laryea said the tractors, with 60-70 horse power, come with ploughs, trailers, mulchers, boom sprayers, mist blowers, threshers, rotovetess and rippers.
He said the tractors could be used on rice fields and fields planted with other food crops, adding: "When you are using the compact tractors, you don't need combine harvesters, since the rippers can perform similar functions when the rice is ready for harvesting, while the threshers can be used to sieve the rice from the trash."
He said one of the challenges faced by the country’s rice farmers was that they always had to wait for a combine harvester to harvest their rice.
“The difficulty with this is that when there is a delay in the deployment of the combine harvester, it could lead to the destruction of the rice because the harvest is time-bound," he noted.
Dr Laryea stressed that the compact tractors had been designed and conditioned with rice-cutting implements and threshers to perform functions similar to those performed by combine harvesters.
Opening the fair, the Agriculture Minister of the Czech Republic, Mr Jiri Milek, expressed delight at the exhibition, the third biggest fair in Europe and which had earned respect for the country.
He thanked the exhibitors for their show of the latest, modern and cutting-edge technology in the agricultural sector.
Describing agriculture as the foundation of human existence, the President of the Agrarian Chamber of the Czech Republic, Mr Zdenek Jandejsek, urged governments to focus on lifting the sector from its current state to a higher level.
The Mayor of Brno, Mr Petre Vokral, said the exhibition was an indication of how the Czech Republic valued the agricultural sector.
Speaking after the opening session, Dr Akoto expressed optimism that at the end of the fair, the Ghanaian delegation would have learnt useful lessons and made significant contacts and collaborations to move Ghana’s agricultural sector to another level.
He was not happy that currently Ghana spent over $300 million on the importation of poultry and poultry products and expressed the conviction that promoting that industry would create more jobs for the youth.