Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto

Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister for Food and Agriculture, on Thursday said Ghana exported 150,000 metric tonnes (MT) of food items worth GH¢400 million to neighbouring countries including,  Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Northern Nigeria, last year.

He said the Ministry had generated GH¢3.3 billion at the farm-gate from 667,000 farmers who participated in the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) and created 740,000 jobs in the rural economy under the flagship programme.

The Minister told journalists at a media briefing in Accra, to announce government’s plans to transform the rice industry and ensure self-sufficiency by 2023.

He announced plans to increase domestic rice production from the current 456,000 MT of milled rice in 2018 to 1,665,000 MT by 2023.

He said government anticipated to increase rice production to address the current deficit of 656,000 MT to a surplus of 365,230 MT by 2023.

In view of that, he said, Government of Ghana signed a $150 million loan facility with the Eximbank of India for agriculture mechanisation programme three weeks ago.

The chunk of the funds was expected to go into acquisition of rice milling machines from India and China for distribution to farmers to increase rice production and reduce the import of the commodity.

Outlining some of the interventions to increase rice production, the Minister said government would strengthen the capacity of smallholder rice farmers to adopt good cultural practices, access to domestic market and improve extension delivery.

In the beginning of the 2017 rice growing season, he said, a total of 1,698 MT of rice seeds were made available for cultivation while 2,400 MT were given to rice farmers in 2018.

Additionally, a total of 6,825 MT of certified rice seeds is envisaged to be distributed to farmers in the 2019 planting season.

Therefore, government supplied 164,000 MT of subsidised fertilizers to farmers in 2017 and 243,000 MT of fertilizers were supplied to farmers under the Planting for Food and Jobs.

Currently, the Minister said, government was supplying various types of equipment for developing valleys for rice cultivation including seeders, harvesters, thresher and rice mills to intensify rice cultivation.

More so, a total of 2,700 agriculture extension agents had been recruited to argument farmers’ outreach programme for technology transfer.

Consequently, 3,000 motorbikes and 216 vehicles had been deployed to support the agriculture sector nationwide.

The Minister noted that in 2015 alone, government imported $1.5 billion rice and believed that boosting domestic rice production would reduce government’s rice import expenditure.

Responding to Ghana’s self-imposed ban of some leafy vegetables to the international market, he said, it was a self-policing action in view of the ban placed on the nation by the European Union (EU) in October 2015, which was lifted on December 31, 2018 after meeting the standards set by the EU.

Therefore, government instituted the action to enforce regulation on vegetable export and to ensure zero-export of vegetables infested with insects and organisms so that the nation wouldn’t suffer another ban.

He said government would meet vegetable exporters next week to inform them about measures it had taken to enforce the regulations.

Source: GNA