Zabzugu, (N/R), Dec 4, GNA- Groundnut production in the Northern Region would this year be in short supply because of the poor rainfall distribution in the region.
There are also fears that although the region has adequate supply of maize, millet, sorghum and yam it could face a shortage if measures are not taken to prevent the exportation of these foodstuffs in large quantities outside the region.
Mr Sylvester Adongo, Northern Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) said this at the regional best farmer awards ceremony at Zabzugu at the weekend.
The occasion had as its theme: " Agriculture production and productivity, the key to growth and poverty reduction". Mr Adongo said to forestall food shortage in the region next year, MOFA had planned to buy off grains from farmers to be stored and sold out during the lean season.
The Director informed the people about the outbreak of the bird FLU disease in some countries and called on the general public, especially farmers to be on the alert and report strange deaths of birds to the nearest agricultural extension agents in their districts. He said the MOFA in the attempt to increase production and productivity, create wealth and eradicate poverty had initiated programmes and projects, which, among others, include the Agriculture Sub- Sector Improvement Programmed (AgSSIP), Food Crops Development Project, Livestock Development Project (LDP), Cashew Development Project and Market Oriented Agriculture Project (MOAP).
Mr Adongo appealed to farmers to contact their extension agents and district directors of agriculture for advice and guidance on farming so that they would see agriculture as a "business and not a way of life." "The issue of how to progress from a nation of importers and traders to a nation of creative and efficient producers and exporters of goods and services relates to productivity and not to governmental dictates," Mr. Adongo said.
He added that unless we raise production and productivity in our drive to export enough to buy the imports that are necessary, the pressure would continue to be on our limited foreign exchange thereby fuelling inflation.
Alhaji Abubakar Saddiqque Boniface the Northern Regional Minister said the agricultural sector would continue to be the main driver of the economy as evidence by its percentage contribution to the overall Gross Domestic Production (GDP).
For instance, he said, in2004 the agricultural sector contributed 46.7 per cent of the National GDP an average of 41.03 per cent over the past eight years.
He said in the last two years the contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP had been boosted by the performance of the cocoa sub-sector that was benefiting from a number of innovative interventions by the government including new improved high yielding, low-gestation variety of cocoa as well as mass spraying of cocoa trees to prevent pest infestation.
In the 2004 fiscal year the cocoa sub-sector grew at 29.9 per cent and contributed 17.9 per cent of total GDP growth. Alhaji Boniface said that rice varieties like TOX introduced into the region on lowland rice fields had the potential of yielding as high as 34 bags per acre but actual yields on farmers' fields were as low as eight bags per acre and wondered whether it was the appropriateness of the technology or the ability to disseminate the technologies that should be blamed.
He advised farmers to stop the partial adoption of production packages, saying that it was better to reduce their farms to manageable size and to adopt the full production package in order to obtain maximum yield per unit area than to have large acreages in which they could only partially apply the recommended packages.
Alhaji Boniface used the occasion to caution the people against the setting of bushfires either for game or to clear the land for farming saying that bushfires were a serious threat to the environment and reduces agricultural productivity, loss of biological diversity and loss of property and life.
Alhaji Yakubu Bukari, Zabzugu/ Tatale District Chief Executive said the district was one of the major yam producing areas in the region and the District Assembly under the Rural Enterprise Development Project and the Ministry of Trade and Industries and the Presidents Special Initiative was planning to establish a yam and Cassava flour production plant to add value to these products and also provide ready market for them.
He said so far 200 Farmer Based Organisations had been formed and the Assembly had set aside 500 million cedis of its Poverty Alleviation Fund to start the project and called on citizens of the district to consider investing in the project and appealed to strategic investors to also invest in the project.
He announced that under the Northern Region Poverty Reduction Programme (NORPREP) and the Community Based Rural Development Project (CBRDP) a number of small scales irrigation dams would be constructed in some communities in the district.
Alhaji Bukari said most of the farmers in the district lose a great percentage of their farm produce through post harvest losses and to reduce this occurrence the Assembly had made funds available to the Agricultural Department to train farmers on post harvest management and appropriate storage chemical methods. A total of 22 farmers in the region where awarded for their hard work and they each received a bicycle, a pair of Wellington boots and a bag of fertilizer. Mr Karija Gmaibi from the Nanumba-North District received the Regional Best Farmer award and for his prize he took away a cornmill, a sewing machine, a packet of roofing sheet a full piece of wax print and a radio set.