“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty” – Mahatma Gandhi
THE APPOINTMENT of the Member of Parliament for Abetifi in the Eastern Region, Bryan Acheampong, as the substantive minister for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture following the resignation of Dr. Afriyie Akoto was met with criticism from some Ghanaians and non-governmental organisations within the agriculture space. The skeptics complained of food scarcity, inadequacy of fertilisers and farm inputs coupled with the skyrocketing food inflation rates in the face of the Planting for Food and Jobs, the One District One Dam and the many more interventions by government initiated to fill the gaps in the sector.
So the big question was, “What at all was Bryan going to do? What didn't Dr. Akoto do but still could not save the nation? Is Bryan Acheampong capable of making the country a self-sufficient country considering the current state of the economy?”
Over the years the country's agricultural sector has been the forerunner in economic development. Revenue earned from the export of cocoa, cashews, rubber and other commercial products has contributed immensely to the current state of Ghana.
To be appointed by the President to head such a vital ministry is a big deal, but it also indicates that such appointee must possess the skills to engine the production and export of food and agricultural products.
Fingers were crossed to witness the capability of Hon. Acheampong whom the President had praised as the man capable of taking over from Dr. Afriyie Akoto.
Lo and behold, Bryan Acheampong, within months, has shamed the doubting Thomases. His first engagement was to visit farmers to access first-hand information on the progress made by the ministry, and pick some notes from farmers on how to run his administration to help address the basics things that affected farmers in the sector.
Such engagement shortly translated into President Akufo-Addo announcing a 63.6% increase in the producer price of cocoa from GH¢12,800 per metric tonnes (GH¢800.00 per bag) to GH¢20,943 per metric tonnes, equivalent to GH¢1,308.99 per bag.
This was received with much excitement from the farmers, who will now receive GH¢1,308.99 for every 64-kilogram bag of cocoa beans sold to licensed buying companies.
On numerous occasions, Hon. Acheampong has stated that his vision is to modernise agriculture in a way that will create employment opportunities and reduce poverty by transforming the economy.
Over his first five months in office, he took the bold step to outdoor the Planting for Food and Jobs Phase II with the help of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
This initiative, which is an upgrade of Phase I, is a five-year plan to attain food and raw material self-sufficiency in vegetables such as tomatoes, onions and pepper; grains like rice, maize, soya and sorghum as well as plantain and roots, and also tubers like cassava and yam. Regarding poultry, the emphasis will be on broiler production and processing.
These commodities were selected by the ministry based on their significance in the diet of Ghanaians, their contribution to food and nutrition security, contribution to foreign exchange earnings and also contribution to import substitution.
Phase II of the initiative seeks to highlight stakeholder engagement with state and private actors in the agricultural sector.
Notable among the engagements was the recently organised Presidential Breakfast Meeting on Agriculture and Agribusiness Financing held in Accra.
Hon. Bryan Acheampong has urged investors across the African continent to invest in Ghana's agriculture sector as it has enormous potential.
While he shared his disappointment in the country’s huge importation of onions and tomatoes from her Sahelian neighbours, he was very optimistic that the PFJ Phase II, when fully implemented, would make the country food-secure and resilient.
With abundant arable lands for crop production, good soil, water resources for irrigation, favourable weather, amidst the diversity of food commodities and a ready market for export, he said the PFJ Phase II would help transform the economy.
PFJ Phase II
Commenting on this, Hon. Acheampong revealed that between October and December, his ministry would supply a total of 4.5 million day-old chicks, vaccines, and starter-pack feed to farmers and out-growers.
This intervention is expected to result in the production of between 13,200 MT and 15,000 MT additional poultry meat by the end of this year, which would increase Ghana's self-sufficiency from 5% to 7%.
PFJ 2.0 would also ramp up this support to 18 million day-old chicks, vaccines, and starter-pack feed, which would lead to the production of 42,600 MT of meat and increase self-sufficiency to 13%. Such trajectory would continue until Ghana reaches full self-sufficiency.
The ministry has indicated it is determined to revive the poultry industry this year through the rehabilitation of 300 outgrown poultry farms across the country over the next 12 months. Each of these farms can be scaled to produce 200,000 birds within each poultry cycle of 4 months.
To poultry farmers, who over the years have been crying, Bryan Acheampong has arrived to save you.
Similarly, for rice, the ministry is currently rolling out specific interventions to increase local production and reduce import levels. The national target is to attain self-sufficiency in 2028 with a total paddy production of 3.31 million MT (equivalent to 1.82 million MT of milled rice).
In this regard, and over the next 12 months, “we will be investing in the development of 50,000 hectares of land under an agro-economic enclave project. We are also undertaking the rehabilitation and expansion of a number of irrigation schemes that would see the construction of 50,000 hectares of irrigated land in the inland and lowland valleys, which give the highest yields for rice (average of 6.5 MT per hectare),” he said.
He has also promised to engage 70,000 young people to go into rice farming out of the 200,000 people the YEA intends to employ under their Youth in Agriculture module.
In these challenging times, this man called Bryan Acheampong still gives hope to farmers and Ghanaians. There is an adage that goes like this: “Follow the person who knows the road”. All the best, Honourable!
BY Prince Fiifi Yorke