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24.01.2005 General News

Food security will be my priority - Debrah

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Accra, Jan. 24, GNA - Mr Ernest Akobouh Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture-Designate, on Tuesday said he intends to use the ministry as a platform for an accelerated and sustainable growth in food and raw material production.

" I will seek the cooperation of all relevant ministries and personalities to move agriculture forward. We will need to achieve food security as we tackle the problems associated with agriculture." The Minister designate was appearing before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee in Accra.

He said the nation still struggled to feed itself, importing most of its food needs and with out-of-fashion tools, it produced little to top up.

He said Ghana needed to be a strong agricultural production and processing country to survive the evolving global trends.

Mr Debrah who is the out-going Northern Regional Minister cited the vast grasslands of the Northern Region as a typical example of the nation's untapped resources for food production.

He said many crops such as millet, sorghum and rice could be commercialised as the vast labour pool and idle land would support such a venture.

"The Northern Region can become a major agricultural region if the right support is provided."

The nominee said he intended looking at the Accra plains, Afram plains and the Daka Valley as viable areas for serious farming and animal husbandry.

On subsidies for farmers, he said, "we have to be ingenious since we cannot provide cash rewards directly to farmers." He called for the repackaging of Research and Development (R&D) to play its intended role in agriculture.

Mr Debrah said the Agricultural Development Bank's loan portfolio should be looked at again since it was drifting into commercial banking. He said the bank was formed by government to promote agriculture "but we sat down all this while and now its is becoming more commercial oriented."

On post harvest losses and marketing of local agriculture produce, he said farmers should be encouraged to mend their old cultural ways as mechanisation was being considered.

"Some rice farmers still process their rice on the bare ground and in the process they pick stones. I think we should at least think about doing so on a cloth to reduce the courting of foreign material." He called for land banks and a general land use policy to create a balance between the various uses of land as estate development was out pacing other uses in Accra and other urban areas.

On his stewardship as Northern Regional Minister, he said he went to the Region in May 2003, at a time when the "Dagbon crises" was at its peak.

He said there were other chieftaincy and ethnic conflicts, which had been dwarfed by the Yendi mass murder. "We talked to people. We were open and frank and through positive neutrality and frankness, a degree of peace returned. The matter has not been completely resolved."

Mr Debrah is the member for Tano North in the Brong Ahafo Region and holds a Masters degree in Business Management.

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