Tree crop is the future of Ghana – Dr. Afriyie Akoto

The immediate-past Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto is confident that prioritising the Tree Crop sub-sector will enable Ghana wean itself off financial dependency on the International Monetary Fund(IMF) and other bilateral donor.

According to him, if Ghana had started this journey decades ago, the nation would have been reaping the economic benefits for the prosperity of all.

Speaking at a lecture themed: The Future Of Ghana; Transforming Agriculture For The Prosperity Of All at the University of Professional Studies, Accra on Monday, 13th March 2023, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto who’s a Flagbearer hopeful of the governing New Patriotic Party(NPP), said the lesson from Ghana’s journey with the IMF and bilateral donors is indicative of the urgent need to expand the export earning capacity of the economy.

He averred that in the short to medium term, only the agricultural sector can establish that capacity to achieve sustained rapid economic growth.

“I strongly believe that prioritising agriculture is a sure way for achieving the accelerated growth needed in the other sectors of the economy and creating the needed jobs for our people. During my tenure as the Minister for Food and Agriculture, I initiated the establishment of the Tree crop Development Authority under an Act of Parliament, Act 1010 in the year 2019. The Tree Crop Development Authority (TCDA), established in 2020, seeks to coordinate and promote the development of six tree crops – cashew, rubber, oil palm, coconut, mango and shea.”

Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto added: “The goal of the Authority is to develop, produce and distribute the selected cash crop seedlings to farmers so as to produce and generate a combined potential of export earnings of between $6 to $12 billion per year after 8-10 years of implementation. At their full development, the additional USD6-12 billion per year in earnings can complement the less than USD2 billion annual earnings from cocoa.”

He noted that the TCDA was designed to receive a seed fund of 15million US Dollars in the first three years of its creation. Unfortunately, in its 3rd year of operation, it has so far received only $1.3million equivalent to 25% of the capital needed since its establishment in 2020.

“In Cote D’Ivoire, total annual export earnings from five cash crops – cashew, cocoa, coffee, rubber and palm oil, fetches the economy some US$8 billion every year compared to less than US$2 billion in Ghana. Cote D’Ivoire which started this program decades ago has been enjoying these economic benefits of tree crops all these years,” Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto disclosed.

The former Cabinet Minister also touted some of his achievement while in office including the introduction of the National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme(NCHP) designed to renew the productive capacity of the cocoa industry.

The Programme was launched in 2020 to scale up the promotion and production of Cocoa to provide more income to the economy and farmers and create more jobs. As a result of the success of the programme, thousands of farmers who had abandoned their cocoa farms due to the devastating effect of the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) have returned to their farms. Currently, a total farm area of 56,343 hectares has been fully treated across the cocoa growing regions of Ghana as of 30th September 2022, although not enough.

He noted that an important part of the NCHP is to support the private sector to expand local cocoa processing, vigorous promotion to boost domestic and international consumption and promote market expansion of the export of cocoa products into new markets. The National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programmewhen fully implemented should generate more foreign exchange earnings from cocoa.

The former Member of Parliament for Kwadaso continued “During my time as Minister of Agriculture, we implemented the construction of three greenhouse training centres with an attached commercial unit at Dawhenya, Akumadan and Bawjiase for training 537 youth in high-quality vegetable production. These vegetables are sold to high end shops such as Palace Mall, Shoprite, Starbites, KFC and Burger King in Tema, Accra and Kumasi.

As part of the training, 540 youth trainees and students from various tertiary institutions were sent to Israel for an 11-month paid internship to gain practical experience in modern farming practices. These were part of efforts to attract the youth intoagriculture. The returnees form Israel are assisted to set up their own farm enterprises.”

Rearing for Food and Jobs

The Protein Consumption by the Ghanaian population is critical to the health of the nation. The livestock sub-sector plays a significant role in the provision of proteins in our food. There is a plan at the Ministry to create a Poultry Development Authority to promote of the industry.

Under my watch the Veterinary Services have seen substantial improvements. We have installed new laboratories, reequipped old ones and recruited 500 additional Veterinary personnel. We have also encouraged and supported local meat processing and substantially expanded soya bean production.

Nevertheless, Ghana’s Poultry industry still faces various challenges, key amongst them is the high cost of feed and high importation of poultry products unto the market. There is a double-edged solution to this. The first is to regulate the importation of Chicken and other meat products and secondly, to address the cost of feed. This will be tackled as a major responsibility of the incoming Grain Development Authority (which I will speak on later) which is tasked to make all necessary interventions to solve the problem. As part of its responsibilities, the GDA will purchase grains at the time of harvest when the prices are low, store the grains and release them to the poultry farmers and other stakeholders in the value Chain.

In addition, when seasonal prices risevarious interventions have been made to increase production in other areas of the Livestock industry.

Agricultural Mechanisation

The Ministry since 2017, have received and distributed a total of 12,200 pieces of agricultural machinery and equipment from Brazil, Czech Republic and China at 40% subsidy to farmers. The machinery includes tractors, harvesters, irrigation equipment, food processing and post-harvest management equipment. Additionally, a tractor assembling plant is being established near Ejisu in the Ashanti Region.

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