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Politics of Thursday, 1 September 2005

Source: GNA

Find solutions to decline in animal production - Debrah

Tamale, Sept 1, GNA - Mr Ernest Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) on Thursday called on animal scientists to find solutions to the decline in animal and poultry production in the country.

He noted that although Ghana had a vast land and other resources for livestock production the population of animals could not meet the nutrient requirements of the people.

The call was contained in a speech read for him by the Northern Regional Minister Alhaji Abu-Bakar Saddique Boniface at the 14th Annual Biennial Conference of the Ghana Society of Animal Production (GSAP) in Tamale.

The Conference, under the theme: "A Sustainable Domestic Animal Industry - Role of Research", brought together animal scientists to deliberate on ways of improving livestock production in the country. Mr Debrah said the country's livestock base was currently estimated at 1.4 million cattle, 3.1 million sheep, 3.9 million goats, 0.30 million pigs and about 28.7 million poultry.

He said the annual increases in these numbers were negligible and more so with regards to the number of pigs, which keeps declining as a result of the periodic outbreak of swine fever.

Mr Debrah said it was not surprising that the domestic consumption of animal products was very low adding: "Local production provides only half of the total annual requirements representing about 30 per cent of the national animal protein intake".

He noted that with an annual population growth rate of 2.7 per cent coupled with increasing urbanisation, the demand for animal products would continue to increase and imports would have to increase unless local production was adequately enhanced.

However, Mr Debrah said the large imports of animal products were not only an unnecessary drain on the country's limited foreign exchange reserves, but they could seriously lead to a general decline in animal production.

He said as part of measures to improve on the agriculture sector, the Government had replaced the accelerated agricultural growth and Development Strategy (AAGDS) with the Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP) to accelerate agricultural growth by six per cent.

The Minister said FASDEP was a holistic approach to agricultural development aimed at bringing linkages between production, processing, preservation, packaging and marketing.

Mr Debrah said the Ministry was collaborating with research institutions such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the faculties of agriculture in the country's universities to realise this objective.

"In line with this, the Ministry has provided support through programmes such as the Food and Agriculture Budgetary Support (FABS) to finance research activities in the field of agriculture", he added. Mr Debrah said MOFA was also implementing a livestock Development Project (LDP) as part of the Government's poverty reduction strategy to improve food security and reduce imports of animal products in "an environmentally sustainable manner".

Mr Debrah said the project was expected to increase the incomes of smallholder livestock and diary farmers, processors and traders in initially 25 selected districts but the number had now risen to 35 districts.

He noted that livestock and poultry production in the country was mainly a subsistence activity and urged researchers to find ways to encourage commercial and more business like ways of producing livestock and their products.

Mr Debrah announced that efforts were been made to reduce the cost of production particularly in respect of feeding to ensure reasonable and uniform feeding cost all year round.

In this regard, he said the government was supporting the large-scale production of maize and soybean, which are major ingredients in feed for poultry.

Alhaji Boniface appealed to the Society to include the message on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in its activities to educate rural farmers on its benefits and encourage them to register. He asked the Society to educate the people on the dangers of HIV/AIDS. The Regional Minister reiterated his call for peace in the region, saying: "No development can take place in an environment of conflicts and insecurity".

Dr Augustine Naazie, President of GSAP said the conference would enable animal researchers to brainstorm and come out with solutions to address the decline in animal production in the country. He announced that for the first time in its history, the society had produced a journal and expressed the hope that the document would rekindle interest in its activities. 01 Sept.05