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Business News of Friday, 6 February 2004

Source: GNA

BUDGET: Ghana to become an agro-industrial economy

Accra, Feb. 5, GNA - The overall objective of the Government in agriculture sector, one of the priority areas selected for accelerated development "is to develop the country to become an Agro-Industrial Economy by the year 2010", the Finance Minster, Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo said on Thursday.

Presenting this year's Budget Statement to Parliament, the Minister said this would require the development of the rural economy. He said to undertake its programmes and activities for 2004, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has been provided A2394,376 million.

"The major policy thrust of MOFA is the transformation of the rural economy through agro processing. This involves reform in the area of land acquisition to facilitate access to land, efficient land ownership and title processes."

"Towards this end, the Ministry is expected to develop policies to assist and support the Private Sector in agro processing," He added. He said Specific activities to be undertaken would include the Promotion of Farm Mechanisation, Provision of Irrigation facilities, Acquisition of land for commercial farming, Rehabilitation of Fish Hatcheries and the Promotion and development of agri-business.

According to the Finance Minister, the Ministry of Agriculture in 2003, continued its objective of modernizing agriculture based on rural development as stipulated in the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS).

"The Ministry of Agriculture will continue with the implementation of activities that will enable it achieve the GPRS objective of modernising agriculture.

He said major activities and programmes to be undertaken under the GPRS would include the rehabilitation of five animal traction centres at Nyankpala in the Northern Region, Wenchi in the Brong Ahafo Region, Nkwanta in the Volta Region, Doba in the Upper East Region and Babile in the Upper West Region.

He explained that to support the development of ground water for agriculture, the Ministry would purchase 20-groundwater irrigation equipment (distribution pumps, irrigation pipes and sprinklers). "In addition, two drilling rigs and a number of submersible water pumps to facilitate the development of groundwater for agricultural purpose will be procured."

According to the Minister, the Ministry would support the private sector procure a wide range of agricultural machinery and equipment targeted at production of specific crops at a particular locality. "These machinery and equipment will be used to provide mechanized services for farmers in and around the locality thus increasing agricultural production and productivity."

Mr. Osafo Maafo said the Ministry would support small-scale agro-processing industries with procurement or fabrication of various equipment and machinery including 10 complete lines of tomato processing facilities for sale to communities and individuals engaged in tomato processing.

On outlook for 2004, the Minister said 50 mechanical dryers would be distributed to stakeholders engaged in the drying of grains and other commodities.

He said 100 pieces each of cassava grater and press would be made available for sale to groups and individuals engaged in cassava processing activities and 100 solar dryers would also be ready for sale to groups and individuals engaged in processing and drying of vegetables and other commodities.

Mr Osafo-Maafo said to increase operational and cropping efficiency of the existing irrigation schemes, the following improvements would be carried out the " Rehabilitation of two kilometres of canals at Tono Irrigation Dam and the rehabilitation of one kilometre of canals at Vea Irrigation Dam.

He said provision of pumps and pipes would be made available for the Mankessim irrigation project; and the modernization of the pumping station at the Dawhenya Project.

On rice production, he said, "support would be given to privately owned small-scale rice millers with de-stoner equipment to improve upon quality and increase acceptability of locally produced rice by consumers and thereby boost local production and reduce importation. On food security, he said under the crop sub-sector, programmes for food security would be carried out through increasing the production and availability of planting materials.

Mr Osafo Maafo said the Agriculture sector would focus on strengthening the capacity of breeder seed producers of rice, soybean, sweet potato, maize, sorghum and cotton.

He said there would be focus on promoting the use of bio-agents and chemicals for pest control.

The Minister said for the livestock sub-sector, the Ministry's main focus would be on: Improving indigenous breeds of small ruminants and the West African Short Horn (WASH)." Developing improved forages and communal grazing lands."

He said the Ministry would facilitate the revamping of collapsed hatcheries and improve the quality of locally produced day old chicks. "With regard to the Fisheries Sub-Sector, MOFA will focus on implementing a fisheries management plan and carry out feasibility studies for the development of landing sites at selected locations across the country."

On post-harvest management, the Ministry would promote the use of improved storage facilities and encourage District Assemblies and non-governmental organisations to put up community level storage facilities.

The Minister touched on some successes chalked in 2003, saying improved cassava planting materials have been supplied to the Ayensu Starch Company Limited (ASCo) under the President's Special Initiative (PSI) on Starch for planting 464 hectares.

"To increase the export volume of pineapple, observation trials of Maya Gold, MD2 and Cowboy varieties were undertaken. In addition, five pineapple cooperative groups of FARMAPINE have been trained in plastic mulch technique to achieve higher yields and exportable weights of pineapple."

He said under the policy to accelerate rice production, 446 hectares of rice field were planted and four storage warehouses have been constructed for small-scale farmers.

The Minster said to serve as a catalyst to assist the private sector to increase the production of grains - rice, maize - and tubers, affordable credit to support farmers was provided through the Food Crop Development Project (FCDP) through which an amount of 4.898 billion cedis was disbursed to 3,391 farmers for the cultivation of 3134 hectares of cereals and legumes.

"While an amount of 1.252 billion cedis was disbursed as credit to 76 marketing groups consisting of 611 traders in the Nkwanta, Ejura, Wenchi and Damongo Districts to ensure ready market for farm produce."

"With regard to the Cashew Development Project a total of 13,040kg (163 bags) of improved cashew seed nut was procured from Benin and distributed to 10 beneficiary districts for sale to farmers."

"A nursery has also been established at Bole to raise the initial stock of 20,000 seedlings for the clonal garden, which was established in consultation with research scientists from Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana," he said.

On livestock production, the Finance Minster said the objective in 2003 was to improve access to inputs for livestock production. On fisheries, Mr. Osafo Maafo said Ghana's fish resource had been dwindling over the years due to the use of inappropriate fishing methods and illegal fishing gears.

"To regulate the industry, the Fisheries Regulation has been revised to give effect to the Fisheries Act 625.

The Minster explained that one of the greatest challenges facing agriculture in Ghana was its dependence on nature.

"By the grace of part of its agricultural policy of modernization in line with the key priority areas of Government, the Ministry embarked on a strategy to exploit the vast and untapped water resources of the country, both surface and underground for irrigation."

"A new model of micro-irrigation system, under the Special Program for Food Security (SPFS), was developed on a 20 hectare land at Ejisu-Besease. The development of another new model of micro-irrigation system using low lift-pumps has been initiated on 20 hectares at Xavi in the Akatsi District and 10 hectares at Kobure in the Bawku West District."