Business News of Monday, 28 May 2012

Source: Daily Graphic

‘Cedi depreciation won’t affect food security’

The depreciation in the value of the cedi in current times does not pose a veritable threat to the country’s food security, the deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture responsible for Crops, Mr. Yaw Effah-Baafi, has said.

He said there was no need to panic over food shortage, since timely interventions have been fashioned with supporting stake holder organisations and the country’s development partners to address any shortfall.

Mr. Effa-Baafi gave the assurance at a press conference after the opening of the Ghana Agriculture Investment Forum held in Accra.

“The situation is not as bad as it may seem,” he said, adding that a comparison with other African countries proved that Ghana's efforts in the agricultural sector were yielding good results.

He explained that although the contribution of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had declined from 51 per cent to 36 percent, staple food crops were still routinely cultivated in various parts of the country.

“Many of the staples are safe due to timely interventions which the government, in partnership with some organisations, continues to carry out,” he said.

The forum was organised by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) as part of activities marking five years of its inception.

The forum, held on the theme: “Africa's Agriculture Green Revolution - Is Ghana on Track?” was aimed at bringing together players in the agricultural value chain to dialogue oil how to effectively operationalise a green revolution and the country's preparedness to implement a full-scale agricultural green revolution.

Expatiating on the efforts the government was making in the area of agriculture at the press conference, Mr Effah-Baafi said despite the enormity of the task of achieving a green revolution, the country had accomplished much in the positive light.

He said the government's plan to subsidise improved seeds, in addition to fertilisers and other agricultural supplies, was on course.

He added that about 100 agricultural mechanisation centres would be established in various districts by the end of the year as part of efforts to strengthen the policy support system of the agricultural sector.

The AGRA Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Dr David Sarfo Ameyaw, said AGRA partnered various organisations to ensure that goals set in various areas were attained.

He said the collaboration with academia, for instance, would ensure quality training of the next generation of scientists and agronomists for the benefit of the country and Africa.

By the end of the year, he said, 80 students would graduate with doctorate degrees from the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement at the University of Ghana and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

He said the training was to build the capacity in various specialisations of agriculture to deal with the various challenges, so that new mechanisms to help attain food security on the continent would be evolved.

Dr Ameyaw explained that AGRA's role was to catalyse the transformation of agriculture into a highly productive; efficient and sustainable system to ensure food security and alleviate poverty among millions.

The Programme Officer of the Agro Dealer Development Unit of AGRA, Dr Kehinde Makinde, said to attain such a goal, the participation of all stakeholders, including smallholder farmers, was essential.

He said although small-holder farmers seemed less authoritative, they contributed 80 per cent of total agricultural production in the country.

He, therefore, stated the need for such farmers to be unionised in order to form a formidable force to compete with large commercial farmers.

That, he said, would create a common goal at which the larger number of small-holder farmers would work.

He said building a strong communication with and among farmers proved to be the basis for lasting collaboration, adding that community radio had been adopted as a strategic medium to disseminate information and educate farmers on modem agricultural practices.

Dr Makinde was convinced that the country was capable of alleviating' poverty among its people and urged all to take a keen interest in agriculture and other issues of national development.