Fixing the Country: Open Letter to the President of Ghana on the use of the Agricultural sector - Part 9

as the Major Engine for the Economic Recovery Programme to ensure Food Security, poverty reduction, the Generation Of more Employment and Wealth creation/Import Substitution to Conserve Foreign Exchange
Feature Article Fixing the Country: Open Letter to the President of Ghana on the use of the Agricultural sector - Part 9
JUN 29, 2022 LISTEN

Dear His Excellency, the President of Ghana,

One of the Holy Books of God, precisely the Holy Bible at Romans 13:1 states that: “All authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God and every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Also, 1 Peter 2:13-14 declares: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the

Punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” This implies that God has a purpose for humanity, a purpose for current and future events, and He will accomplish that purpose through the leadership that He either puts in place or allows.

Hence, Mr President, It is God who chooses a Leader for his good people. This was testified by his Excellency ex- President JD Mahama when on 24 August 2016, he declared that ‘God will choose the next President’ on 07 December 2016, this was during a campaign at Salaga in the Northern Region. You may wish to confirm this, so Google for God will choose the next President by Ex-President Mahama.

So, I can comfortably say that indeed, then Presidential Candidate Mr Nana Addo and then Vice-Presidential Candidate Dr Muhamadu Bawumia were both brought together by Allah to be nominated as President of Ghana and Vice President respectively. Thus, it should be clear to the good citizens of Ghana that you with your Deputy was nominated on 07 December 2016 by God as the President of Ghana among other Ghanaians including a sitting President as one of the Presidential candidates, with the view to efficiently and effectively protecting the citizenry of Ghana from the physical and economic destruction by the COVID-19 pandemic, with global economic downturn as the causal effect reportedly worldwide as a great depression since 100 years or so.

Thanks to God, that in March 2020, you as the President, Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ghana, you issued an excellent Battle Warning Order for combating COVID-19 pandemic and defending the citizenry against the invasion of Coronavirus and you have seemingly won the battle against the pandemic. Unfortunately, the economic downturn one of the casual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been aggravated by the Russia-Ukraine war and to some extent by bad governance.

But, Sir, the huge challenges created by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia -Ukraine War have rather offered great opportunities for home grown solutions by your administration and the citizenry at large for Ghana to attain your vision of Ghana beyond aid, through a massive change in the Guggisberg economic template to a modern one. So Ghana is standing at the Crossroads. Thanks to Almighty Allah for giving you a very intelligent, excellent and hardworking Deputy (His Excellency Vice President Dr Muhamadu Bawumia). Sir, the two of you as at date have recorded in the history of Ghana especially in the Fourth Republic as the first excellent synergy of a President and a Vice President.

Truly speaking, his Excellency Vice President Dr Muhamadu Bawumia has risen to the challenges (occasion) through digitalization,, which is one of the game changers for the transformation and modernization of the economics of Ghana, which will help accelerate the processes for the achievement of your vision of Ghana beyond aid. So, based on the saying that the ‘buck stops with the President’, you are please expected to stop the lamentation on the issues of the COVID-19 pandemic/Russia-Ukraine war and come out with 3 years recovery action plan. A plan as promised by you, on the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that you cannot revive a dead person due to the pandemic, but you can revive a dead economy, the causal effect of the Pandemic.

So Mr President, it is high time you galvanized the citizenry like what the late General Acheampong did during an economic downturn, then occasioned by huge debts and that made him to declare ‘Yentua’ (we would not pay) to the World Bank and IMF. So, to ensure food security, reduce poverty, generate employment and conserve foreign exchange through import substitutions in order to bring an improvement on the economic fundamental, he saw Agriculture as the game changer or the engine for the economic growth.

So, late General Acheampong launched the ‘OPERATION FEED YOURSELF PROGRAMME’ that saw massive investments in Agriculture. He set up in 1977, the Ghana Irrigation Authority (GIDA) which saw to the construction of credible irrigation dams at Tono, he continued with the constructional work at the Vea Irrigation Dam which started in 1965 and placed these two Dams, in the then Upper Region under the Irrigation Company of Upper Region (ICOUR), he initiated the hydro-electric Power-Irrigation Dam at Kpong. He brought some tractors, tillers, boom sprayers, combined harvesters into the system. All the irrigation projects were for the production of Rice, maize and fruits like tomatoes, vegetables under irrigation. He also supported the Nasia Rice Irrigation project with funding etc.

Sir, as stated, Ghana is at Crossroads, so you need to take immediate actions especially in the Agricultural sector, through transformation and modernization to arrest a potential threat of food insecurity, hence a potential threat to the existence of mankind therefore National Security. Sir, to motivate you into action, Mr President take a minute to go through some parts of the lyrics of ‘SO MUCH TROUBLE IN THE WORLD’ by the late Reggae Maestro Bob Marley, the great Prophet of the 19th century.

This song depicts the way things are going around the world and therefore requires transformation/modernization as the game changer with good leadership making good investment for the welfare of the citizenry and reduction of corrupt practices. The song or lyrics goes as follows ‘So much trouble in the world, Bless my eyes this morning, Jah sun is on the rise once again, The way earthly things are going, Anything can happen, You see men (herein, Bob meant politicians) sailing on their ego trips.. Blast off on their spaceships. Million miles from reality, No care for you, no care for me (Bob meant politicians take our tax and invest in million dollar projects to explore outer space of no value to the immediate needs of mankind). So, much trouble in the world. All you've got to do is give a little (give a little to the suffering people. So you think you've found the solution. But it's just another illusion. So before you check out this tide. Don't leave another cornerstone standing there behind. We've got to face the day, Ooh come what may. We the street people talking, yeah, we the people struggling. Now they (he meant politicians) are sitting on a time bomb (bomb, bomb, bomb! bomb, bomb, bomb!). Now I know the time has come (bomb, bomb, bomb! bomb, bomb, bomb!). What goes on up is coming on down (bomb, bomb, bomb! bomb, bomb, bomb!)What Goes around and comes around (bomb, bomb, bomb! bomb, bomb, bomb!) So much trouble in the world.

This song is pregnant with different meanings and one of the meanings is the need for proper action now by the Leader, therefore you our Leader because all actions have consequences which will affect the doer of the action at some future time. Mr President, this is not a threat but just saying the usual requirements in a democratic dispensation, hence through the ballot box, you and your administration will be called upon by the citizenry to answer for your actions in the next election in 2024 and by the elected next administration.

So Mr President, you need to regard the agricultural sector as the engine for economic growth and development and for employment for the youth and a transformed and modernized agricultural sector will also act as a catalyst for industrialization especially agro-industry. The agriculture sector as you are aware of, is the main source of livelihood for the majority of the citizenry, it employs nearly 60% of the workforce, accounts for 30% of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a sector that can help improve the economic fundamentals of Ghana, since Ghana is reported as a net importer of basic carbohydrate and energy source foods like rice, maize, sugar that of protein like fish and poultry and all sorts of fruits and vegetables including vegetable oil.

Mr President the current Hon Minister for Agriculture disclosed that Ghana imported US$151milion of rice in 2007 and the figure rose steadily presumably due to rapid population increases to US$1.5 billion in 2015. But report shows that it dropped massively to US$300million (cost of 689,000 metric tonnes) of imported rice in 2016. Paddy Rice production in Ghana increased by 5.19 % from 687,680 tonnes in 2016 to 925,000 tonnes in 2019 and to 973,000 tonnes in 2020.

In 2021, the Minister for Trade and Industry disclosed in Parliament that about GH₵6.874 billion, this was equivalent to US$1.13 billion (the exchange rate by 31 December 2020 was averagely at 1 USD to GH₵6.2) was spent in the importation of rice between 2017 and 2020 meaning about 371miillion yearly, hence a yearly surge of US$71million from the 2016 figure of US$300million, presumably due to rapid population increase.. He also told Parliament that GH₵3.993 billion was used in importation of fish between 2017 and 2020, GH₵2.65billion spent in importation of processed or frozen Chicken/poultry, GH₵487 million spent on importation of Meat and GH₵281million in importation of Vegetables. This happened during your first term in office. These statistics speaks volume of the situation is in Ghana. So Ghana needs to build a viable economy through the Abraham Odoom’s effect which saw the stoppage of importation of rice in Nigeria.

Mr President Ghana has considerable potential in agriculture especially rice production particularly in the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone (NSEZ), Volta Region (Kpong/Afefe/Nkwanta, the Afram Plains and the Ahafo Brong/Bono and some parts of Central Region. So, rice production or the agricultural sector provides huge opportunities for this Country.

A typical rice supply chain is made of an intricate network of public and private entities that links the rice producers (the farmers), rice harvesters, transporters, rice millers, rice collectors and ancillary traders in cooked food etc, rice wholesalers/traders/retailers and food processors and lastly the final consumers. Other stakeholders include transporters, companies that supply seeds, agrochemicals and agricultural equipment, irrigation companies, inspection agencies, government departments of commerce, of tax, and agriculture and other state agencies involving matters related to rice production.

Mr President, Ghana simple needs improvement in public expenditure allocation in the Agricultural sector, that is reasonable public investments in Research and Development, Mechanization (tractors, power tillers, transplanters, combined harvesters, rice millers etc), in infrastructure (irrigations, roads, , silos or warehouses, greenhouses poultry, houses, fish ponds) and other areas/actions, necessary to sustain Ghana’s agricultural growth, these include management and budget coordination in agriculture, improvement on the collection and analysis of agricultural data to produce excellence and authentic data for planning as well as proper use and servicing of equipment.

The planting for food and jobs made some success in these areas with huge investment made by you. But it is alleged that the agriculture sector experienced a slow growth (the comparison of rice importation in 2016 with the situation by 2020 in your first term despite the huge investment or the interventions made in the Agric sector by your Administration speaks volume. It is envisaged that urbanization coupled with the rapid population increases could be the reason for the state of affairs, this need to be investigated.

Mr President, the Agricultural sector therefore needs a coherent import substitution by restriction of imports and upscaling the production of rice, maize, poultry to reverse the huge expenditure in the importation of Rice, Poultry and Fish. Hence as stated, there is the need for increasing the efficiency and quality of public spending in agriculture as well as need for improving the regulatory framework, good market, provision of incentives including credit facilities to attract more private investment into the sector. For rice production, you may consider granting credit facilities to the farmers through the Rice Millers, so that Rice Millers enter into off taker agreements with the farmers to ensure ready and good market for rice production.

Mr President, as stated Ghana is at crossroads which require sound decisions by you. I must confess that the Minister for Agriculture for that matter your administration has done some good job but the situations speaks differently or maybe COVID-19 is blamable. So, a drastic change is needed Sir.

The Hon Minister for Agriculture is reportedly dividing his time/energy/attention for campaigning to be the NPP Presidential candidate in the yet to be organized primaries of the NPP party. Hence, please thank him for his good job and replace him with the speed of light with a young dynamic person not necessary with Agriculture degree or PHD background but a result orientated person who understands that the best way to succeed is teamwork, Stakeholders engagement (Hmm, Mr Victor Oppong Adjei, the National Chairman of the Poultry Farmers Association accused the Minister for poor stakeholder engagement with poultry farmers etc), someone who is ready to travel under difficult situations (bad road by foot or by oKada, under all sort of weather etc) and shows leadership by example. It is for this reason that I am recommending a Military Officer not below the rank of Major and not above the rank of Colonel or any other person who should be given the needed resources and achievable targets as his KPIs.

Mr, President due to scarce resources let us prioritize in the production of rice, maize and poultry in that order. So I wish to provide some details on how to achieve success in Rice production and reduce the importation of rice drastically if not to zero.

Production of rice in Ghana is both rainfed at Upland and Valley-bottom or low land areas rice and by irrigation (controlled flooding). Rainfed upland rice in Ghana is grown mainly in the undulating areas of Volta Region, between the Volta Lake and the Togolese border. The rice areas stretches between Ho and Nkwanta.

Ghana currently consumes about 1.4million metric tonnes of rice yearly and produces about 900,000 metric tonnes of milled rice, hence a deficit of 500,000 metric tonnes of milled rice need to be corrected or surpassed otherwise attained to reverse the situation. On average, paddy rice produces 25% husk, 10% bran and germ, and 65% white rice. Hence, good Milling of rice in Ghana may provide 65% rice from paddy rice. So, to produce 1.4million metric tonnes of rice for consumption in Ghana, in order to halt the importation of rice, Ghana must produce not less than 2.2 million metric tonnes of paddy rice to be milled at 65% recovery rate to give at least 1.4million metric tonnes of milled rice.

The Volta Region gives the highest yield of paddy rice between 5 to 6metric tonnes per hectare, Eastern and Ashanti yield is around 4 metric tonnes per hectare and the yield in the North hovers around 3 metric tonnes per hectare, other Regions give lower results. The average yield of rice in Ghana is reported hovering around 3.5 metric tonnes per hectare. But, with a good variety and good agronomic practices (good soil or land preparations or pre-planting process, cultivation through planting, weeding, pest control, fertilization application, water management, good harvesting, drying etc Ghana can attain 8 to 11meric tonnes per hectare as in the production of rice in some Countries, of course the weather or climatic condition is another important factor that affects yield. But Ghana can achieve good results under good management.

Sir, based on Ghana’s average yield of about 3.5metic tonnes per hectare, so the current requirement of 2.2 million metric tonnes of paddy rice for milling at 65% recovery rate to meet local consumption of 1.4million metric tonnes in order to halt the current massive importation of rice to meet the yearly consumption of the 1.4million metric tonnes of milled rice at the current population level, will need about 628,571 hectares of arable land to put on rice production to meet current consumption.

Currently, about 260,000hectaes of land in Ghana is used for the production of rice and the total area of land under irrigation is 222,003 hectares. Rice takes 130days (4.3months) and 136 days (4.5months) from sowing to harvesting. So, contingent on the use of mechanization (for tilling, sowing or transplanting with good variety, spraying of fertilizer, pesticide or weedicide, harvesting, milling and other good agronomic practices in water management, weed control and pest control, as well as available of credit system, good infrastructure (roads, storage or warehousing facilities, etc) transportation and marketing, of rice and import restrictions, it is possible to motivate the farmers and millers to effect two productions of rice on the same land under irrigation within 12months calendar period, so we need to increase the land under irrigations and bring more upland and bottom valley or low land areas for rice production, so that Ghana may be able to halt the situation as done by Nigeria and even become an exporter of rice .