By John Elliot HAGAN, Accra
Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto has revealed that Ghana exported 150,000 metric tonnes (MT) of food items worth GH₵400 million to neighbouring countries, including Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Northern Nigeria, last year.
GH₵3.3 billion generated at the farm-gate
Additionally, he said the ministry generated GH₵3.3 billion at the farm-gate from 667,000 farmers who participated in the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ (PFJ) initiative, and created 740,000 jobs in the rural economy under the flagship programme.
Govt to end rice imports by 2023
At a media briefing in Accra to announce government’s plans to transform the rice industry and ensure self-sufficiency by 2023, he said government is poised to increase domestic rice production from the current 456,000 MT of milled rice in 2018 to 1,665,000 MT by 2023.
He said government anticipates an increase in rice production to address the current deficit of 656,000 MT to a surplus of 365,230 MT by 2023.
6,825 MT of certified rice seeds to be distributed in 2019
Additionally, a total of 6,825 MT of certified rice seeds is envisaged to be distributed to farmers in the 2019 planting season.
The Minister noted that in 2015 alone, government imported $1.5 billion rice, and believes that boosting domestic rice production would reduce government’s rice import expenditure.
In view of that, he said, Government of Ghana signed a $150 million loan facility with the Eximbank of India for an agriculture mechanisation programme three weeks ago.
The chunk of the funds was expected to go into acquisition of rice milling machines from India and China for distribution to farmers to increase rice production and reduce the import of the commodity.
Outlining some of the interventions to increase rice production, the Minister said government would strengthen the capacity of smallholder rice farmers to adopt good cultural practices, access to domestic market, and improve extension delivery.
In the beginning of the 2017 rice growing season, he said, a total of 1,698 MT of rice seeds were made available for cultivation while 2,400 MT were given to rice farmers in 2018.
243,000 MT of fertilisers to farmers under PFJ
Therefore, government supplied 164,000 MT of subsidised fertilisers to farmers in 2017 and 243,000 MT of fertilisers were supplied to farmers under the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme.
Currently, the Minister said, government was supplying various types of equipment for developing valleys for rice cultivation, including seeders, harvesters, thresher and rice mills to intensify rice cultivation.
2,700 Agriculture extension agents recruited
More so, a total of 2,700 agriculture extension agents had been recruited to augment farmers’ outreach programme for technology transfer.
3,000 Motorbikes and 216 vehicles deployed
Consequently, 3,000 motorbikes and 216 vehicles had been deployed to support the agriculture sector nationwide.
Responding to Ghana’s self-imposed ban of some leafy vegetables to the international market, he said it was a self-policing action in view of the ban placed on the nation by the European Union (EU) in October 2015, which was lifted on December 31, 2018 after meeting the standards set by the EU.
Therefore, government instituted the action to enforce regulation on vegetable export and to ensure zero export of vegetables infested with insects and organisms so that the nation wouldn’t suffer another ban.
He said government would meet vegetable exporters next week to inform them about measures it had taken to enforce the regulations.
He said government is expanding availability of various types of equipment that are suitable for developing valleys for rice cultivation.
Further to that, other farm power inputs such as seeders, weeders, harvesters, threshers, and rice mills are being made available to support expanded and intensified rice cultivation.
Extension delivering intervention
The Minister stated that a total of 2,700 agricultural extension agents have been recruited to augment the farmers’ outreach for technology transfer. In addition, 3,000 motorbikes and 216 vehicles have been deployed to support the agriculture sector nationwide.
Government would not ban importation of rice
The Minister, however, stated that government will not ban the importation of rice into the country after it reaches self-sufficiency.
“We are very competitive because we use labour-intensive methods, which are cheap and meet international standards.
“They are using higher capital-intensive method, and that gives us an advantage in the local market, and no need for local farmers to worry about competition,” he assured.
Source: The Finder