The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has touted the achievements of the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme, describing it as a vehicle towards making Ghana the food basket for West Africa.
He said, for instance, that from 1.72 million tonnes of maize produced in 2016, the figure currently stood at 3.43 million, while paddy rice production jumped from 688,000 tonnes in 2016 to 1.36 million this year.
Speaking on the theme: "Ghana becoming breadbasket of West Africa" when he took his turn at the Nation Building Updates series in Accra yesterday, Dr Akoto explained that rising food crop production levels had resulted in huge surpluses which were being exported to neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Niger and Mali.
He said 505,000 tonnes of various food items had been exported to neighbouring countries between 2017 and 2020.
He said the current food production situation had given the indication that Ghana was on the pathway to becoming the breadbasket for West Africa.
Dr Akoto said there had been an overwhelming interest in the PFJ programme, resulting in an increase in the enrolment of beneficiaries.
For instance, he said, from the 202,000 farmers who enrolled in the flagship programme in 2017, the enrolment figure now stood at 1.49 million.
He explained that the interest in the programme was due to the deliberate investment the government had so far made in the agricultural sector in the area of subsidies on fertiliser and improved seeds.
He said as a result of the subsidies, the tonnes per hectare of all the crops under the programme had shot up, citing maize, which rose from 1.8 tonnes per hectare in 2016 to 3.8 tonnes per hectare in 2019, while paddy rice increased from 2.9 tonnes per hectare to 4.3t/Ha within the same period.
He said the investment had generated a lot of interest among the youth, who hitherto shunned agriculture, considering it as the preserve of the aged.
He said people should not think that the increasing figures for agricultural productivity were due to the rains, saying they were the result of the deliberate investments that the government had put in.
He expressed happiness that agricultural productivity had impacted on inflation, which reduced from 9.5 per cent in 2016 to about 7.2 per cent in 2019.
Listing more achievements, Dr Akoto said fertiliser usage had increased from eight kilogrammes per hectare in 2016 to 20kg/Ha in 2019 and shared the hope that by the end of the next four years, Ghana would achieve the ECOWAS target of 30kg/Ha fertiliser usage.
The minister added that there had been an improved farmer/extension ratio from 1:1,908 in 2016 to 1:706 in 2019, explaining that it was made possible because in 2019 he was given clearance to recruit 2,700 agricultural extension agents.
On developments concerning the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD), Dr Akoto said so far 16.12 million quality seedlings of seven crops had been distributed to 65,474 farmers.
He listed the crops as cashew, rubber, coconut, mango, shea, oil palm and coffee.
The minister said he was happy that the Tree Crops Development Act, 2019 (Act 1010) had been enacted, leading to the inauguration of the Tree Crops Development Authority in September this year, with a charge to develop and regulate the tree crop sub-sector.
He explained that the essence was to diversify the over-dependence on cocoa as the sole cash tree crop, and expressed the hope that in eight years, each of the seven tree crops was expected to generate $2 billion a year, instead of the current $2.3 billion cocoa alone brought into the country.
Dr Akoto expressed confidence that the innovation to diversify cash crops would increase the output to help the country free itself from borrowing.
Rearing for Food and Jobs
On the Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ), the Minister of Agriculture said improved breeds of 10,000 pigs, 23,000 sheep and goats, 86,000 cockerels and 130,000 guinea fowls were imported from neighbouring countries so that they could cross local ones to improve the breeds.
Additionally, he announced that the successful piloting of the Wawase Cattle Ranch to address the conflict between herdsmen and crop farmers in the Afram Plains in the Eastern Region was encouraging, adding that the other abandoned ranches in the area would be revamped.
Dr Akoto also gave updates on greenhouse farming and said the government had realised the importance of the horticultural sub-sector and had, subsequently, partnered an Israeli company to establish three greenhouse villages for commercial production and training.
So far, he said, 296 graduates had been trained since December 2019, out of which 190 had received or having paid internship with Israeli farmers in Israel.
On the mechanisation module, Dr Akoto said 230 tractors and 11,450 assorted agricultural machinery and equipment received under a Brazilian facility had been distributed at subsidised prices.
Also, 700 threshers and 1,000 rice harvesters had been procured and distributed to ease the drudgery of farming and improve production, he said.