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23.08.2013 Business & Finance

MOFA Debunks Agric Decline

By Daily Guide
Clement Kofi Humado briefing the pressClement Kofi Humado briefing the press
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The Ministry of Agriculture has debunked claims by the minority in Parliament that Ghana's agriculture sector is declining.

The Members of Parliament on the minority side on Friday, August 12, 2013, cited the poor agricultural growth rate, stagnant food and agricultural production and failed policies as the cause of the collapsing fortunes of food and agriculture in the country.

'These allegations are not the true reflection of what is happening in the food and agriculture sector of the economy,' said Clement Kofi Humado, Minister of Food and Agriculture who added that on the contrary, the fortunes of food and agriculture in Ghana had improved.

He said in the past four years, the performance of the agricultural sector which comprise crops, cocoa, forestry, fisheries and livestock as measured by the value of Agricultural Gross Domestic Product had increased from GH¢5.3 billion in 2007 to GH¢6.6 billion in 2012, representing 24 percent rise.

On the issue of alleged stagnant food production, the Minister said 'staple food production in 2011 was significantly higher than it was in 2008 and the country has achieved food self-sufficiency with grains and starchy staples, 'just travel around the country and you will see food stocks locked up waiting for evacuation.'

On fisheries, the Minister admitted the declining fisheries capture, but blamed the previous government for failing to pass regulations to manage the sector making it 'difficult to prosecute offenders engaged in illegal fishing in the country.'

Government he said had however adopted aquaculture as a major policy instrument to boost fish production and had since recorded upward aquaculture production from 6514 metric tons in 2008 to 27,451 metric tons in 2012.

To increase agricultural production, he said government between 2009 and 2012 added 77 mechanization service centres to the 12 set up by the previous government.

The Minister stated that a $95 million concessional line of credit had been secured from the Brazilian government to support agricultural mechanization in the country.

Mr Humado who debunked the NPP MP's claim on the high farmer to extension agent ratio and put the figure at 3000 farmers to one extension officer, as a gross misrepresentation of the facts on the ground and could not give the current figures said 'the Ministry has embarked on serious recruitment and replacement of staff for the various District, Municipal and Metropolitan Agricultural units to reduce the extension agent to farmer ratio, 15000:1'

He said the Ministry in collaboration with the World Bank was piloting an electronic extension website to provide agricultural extension services to farmers and other stakeholders.

It would be recalled that the minority in Parliament led by its spokesperson for Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto told journalists in the 2013 budget, the NDC government allocated a paltry GH¢340.8 million to the Food and Agriculture Ministry for its programmes which could not even turn around agriculture in the Northern Region, alone let alone the whole Ghana.

'What makes the situation worse is that the allocation is facing perennial problem of uneven releases whereby budgetary funds are held up during these critical months of the farming season, that is, June, July and August.'

He said fish stocks and catches had dwindled over the past 10 years and fishermen are currently complaining about low catches and returns.

He said agriculture under the NDC government had failed miserably with 'Dutch disease staring us in the face.'

'We are going to be afflicted by the Dutch disease now that the country is producing oil because all the investors as well as the government are turning their attention to the oil sector, while the agricultural and manufacturing sectors have been neglected,' he said stressing that  such a situation would result in massive poverty in the rural areas and also massive unemployment.

 By Emelia Ennin Abbey

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