The World Food Programme (WFP) is to establish a food depot in Ghana with food items purchased from Ghanaian farmers to serve as an emergency food stock in the sub-region.
The organisation has, therefore, approached the government in a deal which will involve purchasing food items worth at least $10 million per annum.
The Minister for Food and Agriculture (MOFA), Mr Ernest Akubour Debrah, who made this known when he took his turn at the Meet-the-Press series in Accra on Tuesday, said the move was the result of the good performance of the agricultural sector, which had attracted international attention.
"This is a big market for our farmers", the obviously elated Minister stated.
Mr Debrah said in addition to that, the country had been chosen from among four African countries, which included Kenya, Cameroun and Senegal, to host the regional office of Embrapa, a major agricultural research organisation in Brazil.
He stated that the country had also been selected by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) to host its sub-regional office.
The Minister explained that the siting of the sub-regional office here would make available international technical staff for use by Ghana in its efforts at developing agriculture.
Mr Debrah said the country's achievements could be better appreciated if one considered the fact that since 2001, it had recorded persistent increases in the production of major agricultural produce.
A sector performance review of selected food crops by the MOFA indicated that the production levels of cassava, yam, plantain, cocoyam, maize, sorghum, millet and rice had increased within the past four years.
Giving statistics to support the claim, Mr Debrah said cassava production, which stood at 8,107 metric tonnes in 2001, went up to 9,567 in 2005, yam went up from 3,363 metric tonnes in 2001 to 3,923 metric tonnes in 2005, plantain, which was 1,932 metric tonnes, reached 2,792 in 2005, and maize, which was 1,013 in 2001, went up to 1, 171 metric tonnes in 2005.
"Compared to 2001, the real prices of the major staple food crops showed a decline in 2005", the Minister said, adding, "That was good for the ordinary worker, since, by spending less on food, he had more disposable income".
He said increases in production were not experienced only in food crops, but said the cocoa and livestock sub-sectors also registered some improvement.
The Minister admitted that although the country had not as yet reached the desired target of being completely food sufficient, the government was poised to improve on the modest achievements by modernising the sector.
Modernisation, according to the Minister, would include research and development for the production of improved planting materials and breeds, agricultural mechanisation, irrigation and good agronomic practices.
He mentioned that the main problem facing the Ghanaian farmer was the lack of improved planting materials which partly accounted for about 50 per cent low productivity.
He said the Ministry was, therefore, pursuing a policy of direct intervention to make available improved seeds and planting materials and the relevant agro-chemicals for small-scale farmers on credit.
On the Aveyime Rice Project, Mr Debrah said both local and foreign investors had shown interest in it, adding that the government was ready to partner a private investor in running the mill.
"Valuation of the machinery/equipment and the land has been completed and the values will form the basis for negotiation", he pointed out.
He touched on various forms of support which had been given to farmers, including the provision of improved seeds, preparation of land and the supply of equipment such as tractors and other inputs, adding that 400 more tractors were expected from India before the end of the year.
Mr Debrah recognised the importance of irrigation in agriculture and said programmes were being pursued to expand acreage under irrigation, adding that the Weija, Afife, Aveyime, Kpando-Torkor, Sata, Akomadan, Tanoso, Subingya and Bontanga irrigation projects were being rehabilitated to improve food production.
He stated that to reduce the country's reliance on cocoa, there were plans to develop at least three more cash crops, namely, cashew, mango and cotton.
Mr Debrah said for the benefit of the unemployed youth, the Ministry had approached some traditional rulers for land to be used in farming by interested youths, adding that the land would be prepared and seeds and other planting materials supplied to the youth on credit.
He said pilot projects had already started in Brenam, near Wenchi, and Ayerede, near Nkoranza, both in the Brong Ahafo Region.
To lessen the problem of alien herdsmen, the minister said his ministry would establish common grazing grounds with housing facilities where cattle owners could graze their cattle for a fee in order not to destroy people's farms.
Mr Debrah said two of such grounds would be established this year as a pilot project.
He also touched on support for livestock farmers, improved service delivery, which involved extension officers, the promotion of rural poultry, the avian influenza, horticultural development, farmer training programmes, increase production in rice and other pertinent issues confronting the sector.
In his opening remarks, the Minister for Information Mr Kwamena Bartels, said the Ministry would organise similar sessions to brief the press on some of the activities of Cabinet and also the need for national orientation.