Process of Land Acquisition under review - Kufuor
President John Agyekum Kufuor on Friday said government, in consultation with chiefs had put in place measures to simplify the process of land acquisition in the country.
This, he said, is to solve the problem associated with land acquisition, which had been a major disincentive to plantation and medium-scale farming and also discouraged the youth from taking to farming.
President Kufuor was addressing the 18th National Farmers Day held at Takoradi in the Western Region.
It was to honour outstanding farmers and fishermen in the country.
About 64 farmers and fishermen were honoured during the celebration, which was under the theme: "Modernising Agriculture to Enhance Rural Development".
President Kufuor said the theme was apt because it was government policy to develop the rural areas through the modernization of agriculture.
He noted that the back breaking drudgery that farmers have to endure and the antiquated methods they still employ and the inequitable returns for their toils have made farming unattractive to young people.
President Kufuor said the aim of Government therefore, is to make farming a modern attractive business that would encourage young people to stay in the rural areas.
He said efforts to modernize agriculture, must go along with the modernization of the rural areas where most farmers live, adding, "Those who choose to live in the rural areas should not be denied the basics of modern life."
President Kufuor noted that ensuring effective modernization of agriculture requires a partnership between government and the private sector.
In this regard, he urged the banks to support the private sector to invest in the particular areas of processing storage, packaging and marketing.
President Kufuor indicated that there are now increasing market opportunities in Europe and the United States, especially through the country's participation in the EU/ACP accords and the AGOA.
In addition, he said, Ghana's globally famed cocoa, Ghanaian fruits and vegetables have already made a good mark with consumers in Europe and America.
President Kufuor said government has begun to use money from HIPC savings to modernize agriculture to address poverty among farmers.
An amount of three million U. S. dollars has been allocated to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) for various water harvesting facilities to break the near total dependence on rainfall for agriculture in the country this year, he disclosed.
In the Upper East Region, he said, the rehabilitation and construction of 12 dams and dugouts have started and preparation for the construction of 24 extra ones is also in progress, adding that next year's budget would give pride of place to the building of irrigation canals wherever possible.
Under the Agriculture Services Sub-sector Investment Project (SIP), an amount of six million dollars has been allocated to train farmers to improve their know-how and capacity.
President Kufuor hinted that by next year, about 40 per cent of cocoa beans would be processed in the country, making the industry more vibrant.
He said in recognition of the contributions of cocoa farmers, government has given a special offer to the farmers to purchase at a discount, the shares in the cocoa processing company that have recently been lofted on the stock markets.
In a reply to suggestions by a spokesman of the award winners, Mr. K. Alima, President Kufuor assured the farmers that although his government is liberal, it would never undermine farmers.
He said government is committed to good governance and would therefore, not ignore dialogue with its partners.
President Kufuor finally thanked companies, individuals, financial institutions and all those who donated prizes and contributed towards making this year's National Farmers Day a big success.
The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Major (RTD) Courage Quashigah said the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government is determined to revert the poor situation existing in the rural areas by improving living conditions of the people.
He stressed that any effort to improve the economy must take into account the plight of farmers in rural areas.
Major Quashigah regretted that most of the youth in the rural areas have left farming on the shoulders of the aged and said everything possible was being done to make agriculture attractive to the youth.
In a welcoming address, the Western Regional Minister, Mr. Joseph Buahen Aidoo appealed to chiefs and all Ghanaians to be watchdogs over cocoa smuggling along the country's borders, which is seriously undermining the contribution of the cocoa sub-sector to national development.
He said, while the government was making efforts to improving upon the roads at the borders, it is necessary for communities living along the borders to stop this economic crime against the nation.
A spokesman of the National Farmers Award Winners, Mr. K. Alima expressed the need for all stakeholders to work hard to ensure that the country's agricultural goal is achieved.
He appealed to the government to review its liberalisation policy to help protect made-in-Ghana goods.
Mr. Alima called for a dialogue between farmers and the Government Economic Team to brainstorm on the way to tackle the country's economy.
He thanked the Ministry of Food and Agriculture for the successful organisation of the Award Day and suggested to the Ministry to institute champion of champions contest among farmers as a way of attracting more people into agriculture.
Odeneho Gyapong Ababio, 11, President of the National House of Chiefs presided.