Afram Plains holds key to Ghana’s agric fortunes — MP
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Afram Plains North in the Eastern Region, Betty Nana Efua Krosbi Mensah, is urging government to shift its attention to the area because it holds the key to turning the country’s agriculture fortunes around.
“We all know from the days of Ghana's first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, that Afram Plains remains the food basket of Ghana.
All it needs now is proper infrastructure, investment and access to market,” she told the Daily Graphic in an interview in Accra.
Mrs Krosbi Mensah said a well-planned policy direction and a deliberate investment plan in crops that Ghana has competitive advantage in could reduce the importation of all kinds of food items including tomatoes and rice to save the country foreign exchange.
Cost of import
In 2021 alone, Ghana imported $552 million worth of rice, mainly from Vietnam ($394M), Thailand ($53.3m), India ($50.9m), China ($21.7m) and Pakistan ($21.2m).
Also, Trade data from the Ghana Vegetable Producers and Exporters Association indicate that annual tomatoes import from neighbouring Burkina Faso have hit $400 million from an estimated $99.5 million in 2018.
The MP said that was unacceptable to a country blessed with arable land and a fairly good weather.
Subsequently, she appealed to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and by extension the government to take a second look at the agric sector and redirect its energies towards the Afram Plains “because it is blessed with good land and water bodies to promote food, cash crops as well as fishes for both local consumption and for export”.
The area is noted for a number of local food staples and in particular fish production from the Volta Lake but it has not been fully harnessed.
In that regard, Mrs Krosbi Mensah called on all stakeholders to help harness the potential of the area, and in particular help stop the regular food shortage in the country’s secondary schools to keep the free senior high school (SHS) policy in full flight.
She suggested that the area should become the key supplier of food items to the Ghana Buffer Stock to ensure a year-round food supply to students.
Apart from the Buffer Stock, the MP also suggested that other markets should be easily made accessible and the necessary infrastructure put in place.
“It's been difficult transporting the farm produce to the various market centres.
It's difficult using just the lake, pontoon or the roads because they are in bad shape.”
“In the end, we are unable to service many people as we would have wished. We have the lands and all that it takes to farm.
Beyond the farm, the area supplies most of the dry fishes in the Ghanaian market especially to the Adabraka market.”
The MP said one key challenge that affected the fish industry was the premix.
It is supposed to be subsidised by government so that fishermen could buy them at a cheaper price.
However, she said, the business has been subletted to political figures who manipulate the system, to the extent that some fish farmers are denied access because of their political affiliation.
The MP said the continuous increases in price would affect productivity and thereby stall fish supply to the markets.
Mrs Krosbi Mensah said the government should stamp its authority by “clearing” all political actors associated with the sale of premix fuel to save the industry.