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24.01.2005 General News

Rice production up - Quashigah

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Accra, Jan 24, GNA - Major Courage Quashigah (Rtd), Minister of Health-designate on Monday said a solid foundation has been laid in rice production throughout the country and that he has no regrets for anything he did at the Ministry.

"I think I carried out the assignment given to me by the President objectively and I believed my successor will only need to build on what has been achieved."

Major Quashigah who was being vetted for his new position, was answering a question from the First Deputy Speaker, Mr. Freddie Blay, on whether there was something he could not accomplish when he was the Minister of Food and Agriculture.

"During my tenure rice production rose from 128,000 metric tons to 168,000 metric tons, representing 55 per cent self-sufficiency by reducing post-harvest losses and helping farmers to find market for their products."

"We were able to mobilise local production of rice and supply them to the prisons, hospitals, schools and other institutions thereby creating markets and good prices for farmers."

The Minister-designate, however, said Ghana is yet to achieve the 300,000 metric tons mark, in order to become self-sufficient in rice production.

"A lot more has to be done to reach that target if we are able to reduce further post-harvest losses, which occur during harvesting, processing, packaging and haulage."

Major Quashigah said one of the major problems associated with irrigated farms is that of energy cost, since one needs power to pump the water for the farms.

"Currently, we are trying to develop the wind-mill in the country to power energy for the pumping of irrigated farms."

On health, Major Quashigah said there was the need to try and understand the root cause for the brain drain of Ghanaian professionals, especially doctors and nurses, seeking greener pastures abroad. He said most professional health workers believed that they do not get adequate remuneration for their work although there is always pressure on them to work overtime because of a doctor/patient ratio. He said the terms of service of health workers must also be looked at and improved such as the provision of accommodation and vehicles. "We have to maintain a health culture as a people by promoting personal hygiene, good sanitation and nutrition, exercise and general protection of one's health."

Major Quashigah said early check-ups as well as immunisations could limit one's visit to the hospitals, thereby taking off some of the pressures on the doctors so that they could concentrate on diagnoses and new researches.

The Health Minister-designate said he had confidence in the national health insurance scheme "but it takes time to develop and even some developing countries are still encountering problems in their system."

"We are going back to the drawing board and see what we can do to move and develop the scheme further to reduce the accompanying implementation problems."

He said 16 districts in the country so far have started the national health insurance scheme and that another 34 districts are almost ready for take off and that they have all received their mobilisation funds.

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