The New Patriotic Party (NPP) has decried the decline in food production in the country under the leadership of President John Mahama.
The party said the average annual growth of 3.5% in the past six years compares unfavourably with an oil-driven average annual growth of 6.7% in the economy as a whole over the same period.
Speaking at a press conference held in Accra yesterday as part of activities to mark the annual Farmers’ Day celebration, Minority Spokesman on Agriculture, Dr Owusu-Afriyie Akoto insisted that “the fact that agriculture is growing at less than half of the economy in general signals the onset of the ‘Dutch Disease.’
Dr Owusu-Afriyie indicated that “Ghana’s agriculture has been sliding or at best sluggish from 7.4% in 2008 and 7.2% in 2009, agricultural growth slowed to 5.3% in 2010, hitting the bottom of 0.8% in 2011. It stayed down at 2.3% in 2012, recovering somewhat to 5.7% in 2013 and then 4.6% in 2014.
“The growth registered in the two years- 2013 and 2014 was in large part on account of unprecedented growth in forestry and logging activities.”
“If logging activities are dramatically increasing without commensurate growth in reafforestation, the obvious implication is that we are further degrading our forest cover and opening the country up to the invasion of savannah and Sahelian conditions.”
Furthermore, he noted that “the crop sub-sector which engages most of the 4.5 million farmers in this country recorded growth of only 3.6% in 2014.”
The NPP MP revealed that “the recorded growth of only 2.4% in 2015 was not even half of the targeted growth.”
“The poor annual growth (3.5% average in the last six years from 2010) in agriculture is just above half of the Malabo Declaration minimum target of 6.0% per-annum for all African countries.”
With population growth rate of 2.7% per annum, Dr Owusu-Afriyie, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwadaso said “this means that Ghanaian agriculture is growing at a net rate of only 0.8% per capita per annum, if account is taken of rapid urbanisation typified by the Kayayei phenomenon, then agricultural growth per capita drops into negative value.”
The Minority Spokesman on Agric told journalists that “the poor growth performance of agriculture is reflected in sluggish growth in the production of the major staple food crops, meat, fish and in the decline of the all-important cocoa cash crop.”
“The poor performance of agriculture is also reflected in the very strong escalation in the import of major food items, which are produced by the hard working farmers of this country, while growth in the production of basic food staples (cereals, legumes, roots and tubers) has been sluggish in recent years.”
Instead of a steady growth, the yearly gyration in the production of the basic food staples exposes the underlying weakness in farm productivity in Ghana.
He attributed the steady growth in the roots and tubers sub-sector to the introduction of initiatives- Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme -by the previous NPP administration in 2005.
The NPP promised to restore the budgets of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture that have been cut under the NDC administration while extension officers would be recruited from our Agricultural Colleges for the first time in eight years to boost extension services to strengthen the link between research and the farmers and fishers.
“We shall replenish the financial allocations to our research institutions in order to revive active agricultural research. We shall involve District Assemblies in supporting farmers and fishers in on-farm production and in the marketing and processing of produce. In this regard, the link between the decentralised Ministry of Food and Agriculture staff and the District Assemblies will be strengthened to ensure effective delivery of inputs and services to farmers,” Dr Owusu-Afriyie stated.
One-village, one-dam policy
In the savanna zone, he noted that “we shall pursue the One-Village One-Dam policy as announced by our flagbearer, Nana Akufo-Addo in August 2016 and that unlike the NDC, the NPP will focus on boreholes, dugouts and small community dams in its irrigation policy.”