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Opinions of Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Columnist: Akoto, Owusu Afriyie

Food And Agriculture Sector In Deplorable State

STATEMENT BY HON. DR. OWUSU AFRIYIE AKOTO, RANKING MEMBER, SELECT COMMITTEE ON FOOD, AGRICULTUREAND COCOA AFFAIRS

1. THE VERDICT

The food and agriculture sector today is in such a deplorable state that the upbeat message contained in the 2013 Budget Statement would not help in finding the right solutions. In fact the sector is in such a state that the resources allocated and the policies indicated in the Budget will not be enough to move the sector out of the rut in which it finds itself.

2. GROWTH PERFORMANCE

For the past five years real growth in Agriculture has been collapsing. From 7.4% in 2008, it reduced slightly to 7.2% in 2009 then to 5.3% in 2010. There was hardly any growth in the following year with only 0.8% in 2011 picking up slightly to only 2.6% in 2012. In thisBudget Statement growth is targeted at an unambitious 4.9%. We will be lucky if we reach even half of that target, given the meager resources allocated to that sector in 2013 and the business-as-usual policies envisaged.

It is significant to note that the poor growth performance of the sector lags behind the performance in the overall economy- the unset of the Dutch Disease?

The stagnant agriculture growth means deepening poverty for the 4.5 million farmers and fishermen of this country and rising deprivation and hunger for food consumers.

3. AGRICULTUREAL PRODUCTION

Staple foods

According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the production of basic food staples (cereals, legume, roots and tubers) has seen stagnant growth in the last few years. The large yearly fluctuations witnessed in the production of maize and rice and the sharp increase in imports of rice from 395,400 metric tones in 2008 to 543,465 metric tones in 2011, attest to the deepening food insecurity in Ghana – contrary to the claims by President Mahama in his address to this august House in December 2012.

Meat and Fish

The production of meat and fish which constitutes the major source of protein supply to Ghanaian consumers has been stagnant or declining in recent years with corresponding increases in imports to meet rising domestic demand. Import of livestock and poultry products has risen from 128,000 metric tonnes in 2008 to nearly 140,000 metric tonnes in 2011.

Since the attainment of the record 1 million metric tonnes of cocoa production in 2010/11, there has been a fall in output to 879,000 metric tones in 2011/12 and the current 2012/13 crop is likely to yield only 800,000 metric tones. In my expect opinion, if urgent measures are not taken now production could decline further to the 2004/2005 levels of below 740,000 metric tonnes in the coming seasons.

It is against this background of stagnant production in the agriculture sector that one has to evaluate the measures planned for the sector in this 2013 Budget Statement.

4. BUDGET ALLOCATION TO AGRICULTURE

The 2013 Budget allocates GH¢340.8 million. This amount represents less than 2.2% of the total budgetary allocation. This compares to 3.8% in 2010 and 2.7% in 2011 and 1.9% in 2012. Such low allocation will not dent the stagnant agriculture growth which has characterized our performance in the recent years. Indeed the amount of GH340.8 million will not even turn around the agriculture in the Northern Region alone never mind the whole country. What makes the situation even worse is that this year’s allocation will face the perennial problem of uneven releases whereby funds are held up at critical month of the farming seasons.

5. FERTILIZERS AND OTHER INPUTS

The millions of Ghanaian farmers and fishermen continue to suffer from low productivity because of inadequate supply of improved inputs (seeds, fertilizer, agro chemicals and pre-mix fuel) and lack of market access and farm credit. The mass smuggling of subsidized fertilizer and other farm chemicals across our borders to neighbouring countries is a clear testimony of the failure of farm input policies. The Budget provides for the distributions 180,000 metric tonnes of subsidized fertilizer to farmers compared to 170,000 metric tonnes supplied in 2012. I wish to state that the plan to use computers to assist in the distribution of fertilizer and seeds as anticipates in this Budget will fail, unless there is a complete change in the invoice system of payment.

6. AGRICULTURAL MECHANISATION

The plan this year to establish Agric Mechanisation Service Centres in 170 districts has been repeated in each Budget year since 2009. Yet the number of centres continue to fall. From 86 centres in 2009 the number has fallen to 62 centres by 2012 are likely to close due to lack of spare parts for existing tractors and other form machinery. The intention to import 2,000 tractors in 2013 will remain a mirage, going by the broken promises in past years.

IRRIGATION

How many time have we heard of the commencement of irrigation of 5,000 hectares in 2009 and 2020; 10,000 hectares in 2011 and now 11,000 hectares of land in 2013 on the Accra Plains. Nothing has happened so far, in spite of the fact that the outgoing NPP administration in 2008 left behind detailed plans for implementation of this project.

7. YOUTH IN AGRICULTURE AND BLOCK FARM PROGRAMMES

Those two programmes typify the distraction of policy focus away from the major operators in food and agriculture – the nearly 5 million small holder farmers and fishermen in this country. These programmes are now absorbing a disproportionate amount of scarce public resources.

BUFFER STOCK

The Buffer stock company established in 2009 in highly undercapitalized for the task assigned to it to support the local grain market. 8. FISHERIES The Local Premix Committees established by the Government to ensure fairer distribution of premix fuel to fishermen to avoid artificial shortages. This policy has clearly failed, as reports persist of shortages in many fishing communities. The collapsing annual catches resulting from dwindling fish stock have not been halted because the fisheries laws (Act 164 and LI 1964) are not being enforced vigorously for political convenience.

9. CONCLUSION

The account given above clearly demonstrates that the 2013 Budget does not equip this country with sufficient tools to arrest the stagnation of the Food and Agricultural Sector. The Dutch Disease is stirring the country in the face with the rising oil sector.