Accra, June 12, GNA – Mrs Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, has expressed government's willingness to adopt modern biotechnology in the cotton industry to boost production.
She said the adoption of modern biotechnology would help farmers cut down production costs associated with the use of pesticides and weed management.
Mrs Ayittey, who made this known at the opening ceremony of a two-day stakeholders' workshop on BT Cotton on Monday in Accra, said the application of conventional pesticides and herbicides had a negative effects on the health of farmers and hazardous to the environment.
“These hazards are greatly reduced when transgenic cotton is cultivated”, she said.
The workshop on the theme, “Expanding the use of Biotechnology for Cotton Production in the three regions in the Northern Ghana”, was aimed creating awareness on suitable options to increase cotton productivity, including the benefits of crop biotechnology in suitable economic development with emphasis on insect tolerant and herbicides tolerant cotton.
It would also assist Government to make an informed decision on whether to adopt the technology.
According to her, in West Africa, statistics had shown that most growing cotton countries were currently experiencing irregular drops in cotton production. Togo's cotton production has collapsed lately from having reached 180,000 tonnes in 2002 to a mere 40,000 tonnes by 2006.
Cote D'Ivoire, Mali and Benin are also showing very irregular production abnormal patterns with huge drops in production recently.
Burkina Faso and Nigeria appear to have an overall positive production tendency and are both producing half a million tonnes of cotton or more and seems to have positive development in terms of yield and are outperforming the others.
Mrs Ayittey noted that Ghana's cotton production had dropped drastically after the 90s from 45,000 tonnes to 20,000 tonnes per year.
Comparing Ghana and its neighbours share of the world market, she said the country's annual production was increasingly dwarfed saying “China are producing over 20 million tonnes of cotton annually whiles India produces over 10 million,”.
She said Ghana's underperformance in this area with a yield of only 0.8 tonnes per hectare was due to environmental and agronomical factors militating against the industry such as attack from insects.
“In Ghana, we believe that modern technology holds the key to solving this problem, because through this technology, a number of effective interventions have emerged to boost the cotton industry”, she said.
Mrs Ayittey emphasised the importance of UNIDO Technical Assistance programme to ensure quality of cotton produced in line with international standards, and the conversion of cottonseed into by by-products such as vegetable oil and animal feed to increase the income of farmers.
She noted that the programme was in line with government's vision to increase rural households' income in the three northern regions to reduce the high incidence of poverty among the people.
Mr Frank Van Rompaey, UNIDO Country Representative, said the workshop was aimed at supporting the development of insect resistant cotton suitable for the cotton belt in Ghana.
He said it would serve as a platform for stakeholders to understand the benefits of bt cotton and provide knowledge on the steps needed to be taken for the introduction of bt cotton in Ghana.
He said the introduction of bt cotton in South Africa had resulted in 25 per cent increase in cotton yields with 66 per cent reduction in cost of application of pesticides adding that farmer could earn an increase of up to 135 dollars per ha from bt cotton.
A 2010 study report in Burkina Faso reported yield increases of between 12.5 and 23 per cent with resource poor farmers involved in bt cotton production earning 61.88 dollars per hectare more than what they earned with conventional cotton production and gained 39.00 per hectare in profit, after offsetting the production cost.
Mr Rompaey pledged UNIDO's commitment to help bring improvement to Ghana cotton industry.