The government expects to use the opportunities presented by COVID-19 to maximise the country’s agricultural productivity.
The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, said leveraging the opportunities would help ensure that people receive constant food supply.
“The COVID-19 pandemic provides a golden opportunity for the country to optimise its food production abilities to meet domestic needs and export. It also provides us with the chance to intensify agro processing and thus reduce post-harvest losses while enhancing all-year round food availability and employment,” he said.
Addressing the press in Accra yesterday, he said the country remained on course to meeting the production targets set for this year.
The Agriculture Minister said there was adequate food in the system because of the government’s Planting for Food and Jobs policy and other government initiatives in the agricultural sector.
He said the ban on export of food products by some countries because of the pandemic had also provided a compelling need to put strategic measures in place to ramp up production of all the nation’s key commodities.
Background to briefing
Dr Akoto said the press briefing had become necessary to allay fears of food shortage and reinforce President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s assurance to the nation of food availability in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and movement restrictions that followed.
“We have gone through three weeks of partial lockdown of some cities and are aware of some challenges that occurred to slightly disrupt the food distribution system to the markets. “Now that the partial lockdown has been lifted by the President, I am here to reassure the public that there is adequate food in the country and also that distribution and marketing of food items will continue uninterrupted,” he said.
He said since the outbreak of COVID-19, the ministry had engaged with several stakeholders, including input distributors, importers of food items, Ghana Commodity Exchange and other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and development partners to craft remedial measures in response to the disease and to also design post-COVID interventions.
He said some of the immediate actions adopted included market surveillance; where prices and availability of food in the markets were monitored, provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for agriculture extension agents and development of guidelines for production.
Other interventions, he said, included facilitating inputs distribution and public education through video and print.
“Medium-term actions cover making access to credit easy for producers, aggregators and processors; supporting NAFCO to mop up strategic stocks for food security, re-establishing early warning system to provide regular update on the food situation and establishing a COVID-19 fund for agriculture and food security purposes,” he said.
Dr Akoto said the sector had begun receiving support and cooperation from stakeholders regarding the ministry’s plans to withstand the pandemic.
He said the country’s development partners had indicated their readiness to support plans to restructure ongoing programmes in response to the current emergency situation or provide new funding where possible.
“On Monday, April 20 this year, the Ministry of Agriculture received a presentation of PPE and a cash donation of GH¢10, 000 from AGRA. The cash is seed money for the COVID-19 Fund for Agriculture and Food Security. This is a gesture worth emulating.
“We also want to acknowledge the support of Global Affairs Canada for refurbishing the three bio-containment laboratories which are now being used to test for coronavirus,” he said.
Dr Akoto said the Planting for Food and Jobs programme was in its fourth year of implementation and distribution of subsidised inputs -seeds and fertiliser- to all parts of the country was ongoing.
Similarly, he said, other modules of the PFJ — Planting for Export and Rural Development, Rearing for Food and Jobs, Greenhouse Village and Agriculture Mechanisation — were also being pursued.
He said in view of the safety protocol on social distancing, district assemblies would continue to organise the country’s markets such that they would ensure containment of COVID-19.
He acknowledged the efforts of farmers and all actors in the agriculture value chain for their cooperation and contribution to ensuring supply of food during the lockdown period.
“We remain resolute in our conviction that agriculture is key to sustaining the economic growth of our nation. The results of the initiatives introduced by the government since 2017 are evident. We will continue to intensify our efforts and urge all well-meaning Ghanaians to come on board,” he said.