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23.03.2009 Regional News

Minister of Food and Agriculture begins two-day visit to Upper East Region

By GNA

Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, Minister of Food and Agriculture, on Monday said MOFA would continue with the programme on subsidising fertilizer begun last year.

However, he said it would be streamlined to weed out large-scale commercial farmers who took advantage of the programme to the detriment of the targeted small-scale farmers.

Under the programme, the price of fertilizer was reduced by about 50 per cent to make it affordable for small-scale farmers.

Mr Ahwoi announced this at a meeting with Municipal, District Directors of Agriculture and other staff of MOFA in Bolgatanga, when he begun a two-day official visit to Upper East Region.

He said they had an important assignment because agriculture was at the fore-front of government's development plan for the northern part of the country and should therefore, remained focused to improve the living standards of farmers.

Mr Ahwoi called for effective synchronisation and collaboration among the various sectors of MOFA and urged them not to be daunted by budgetary constraints but endeavour to meet their set targets.

He gave the assurance that President Mills' Administration was prepared to take on-board the good policies and programmes of the previous government, rather than throw them aside.

Mr Ahwoi noted that in the past, in-coming governments rejected good ideas and programmes initiated by out-going governments just to slight it.

"However, a new thinking has now emerged and our government is willing to adopt any useful policies and programmes that the previous regime left behind for the benefit of Mother Ghana," he said.

Mr Ahwoi asked staff of MOFA not to allow partisan considerations to affect their official functions, but rather see themselves as technical people entrusted with the job of ensuring the nation's food security.

Mr Roy Ayariga, Upper East Regional Director of MOFA, briefing Mr Ahwoi on MOFA's activities in the Region, dwelt on the agricultural opportunities in the area and the challenges confronting the sector.

He mentioned sheanuts, cashew, mango, dawadawa and gum-arabic as cash-crops whose development on commercial scale would significantly reduce poverty in the area.

Mr Ayariga cited the rigorous local land-tenure system and bushfires as challenges that had to be dealt with to promote the cultivation of those crops on a large-scale.

He said about 76 dams provided under the IFAD-sponsored Upper East Land Conservation and Small-holder Rehabilitation Programme (LACOSREP) and several dugouts located in various parts of the Region also provided good basis for irrigated farming all-year-round.

"The Region also has a huge potential for rice production on a commercial scale, with several thousands of hectares of fertile land available at Fumbisi, Gbedemblisi, Wiesi, and Naga," he added.

On tomato production and marketing, Mr Ayariga said the "Market Queens" from southern Ghana had taken control of the market following the inability of the Northern Star Tomato Factory at Pwalugu to absorb the tomato produced by farmers in the Region.

He stressed the need for the Mechanisation Division of MOFA to produce large quantities of a machine popularly called "Tomato Master" which was capable of crushing fresh tomato into puree that could be preserved for at least six months.

"If this machine is made available to farmers in this Region, none of them would ever think of drinking DDT again," he said.

Mr Ahwoi later visited Vea Irrigation Project near Bolgatanga, Tono Irrigation Project near Navrongo, where he inspected on-going rehabilitation works.

He is also scheduled to visit some small-scale irrigation schemes and dry season vegetable production areas.

GNA

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