A former chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Afari Gyan, has been honoured for emerging as the ‘Best District Fish Farmer’.

Dr Gyan beat his compatriots to the award at the 32nd National Farmers’ Day celebration under the theme: ‘Agriculture: A Business Response to Economic Growth.’

Dr Gyan had always expressed his love for farming, which he has been involved in for more than 20 years as a hobby.

While in office he had revealed on countless occasions his desire to go into full time fish farming during his retirement.

Robert Crentsil, 42, from Ajumako Enyan Essiam in the Central Region, was adjudged the 2016 National Best Farmer.

He has several plantations comprising cocoa (12 acres), rubber (80 acres), plantain (60 acres), cowpea (60 acres), cassava (30 acres), oil palm (7 acres), coconut (6 acres), citrus (15 acres).

The husband and father-of-three will be given a fully-furnished three-bedroom house to be built in a place of his preference among others.

Addressing farmers at the event held at Kintampo, President John Mahama refuted claims by the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) that agriculture had been declining under his administration.

“The impression created in the media is false. Let me state for a fact that the agricultural sector is not in decline. A sector that is growing at 2.5 per cent cannot be said to be in decline. The statistics can be crosschecked at the [Ghana] Statistical Service. The fact that agric’s contribution to the GDP is not what it used to be in the past, does not mean that it is declining; it simply means that other sectors of the economy are also doing well, which is good for the economy and normal for every developing and developed country,” he stressed.

He made these comments in his address at the 32nd Farmers’ Day celebration in the Brong Ahafo Region.

This year’s celebration, which is being held under the theme: ‘Agriculture: A Business Response to Economic Growth’ was scheduled for Friday, 4 November, due to electioneering activities as the country prepares for polls on December 7.

Mr Mahama’s comments come just a day after Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minority spokesperson on agriculture, had said there was a sharp decline in agricultural growth from 7.4 per cent in 2008 and 7.2 per cent in 2009 to 5.3 per cent in 2010 and 0.8 per cent in 2011.

Addressing a press conference in Accra on Thursday, 3 November, the Kwadaso legislator said the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) shared in the difficulty which farmers and fishermen in Ghana had to contend with under the Mahama administration.

Reviewing the performance of the agriculture sector, Dr Afriyie Akoto said: “By the measure of annual growth performance, Ghana’s agriculture has been sluggish from 7.4 per cent in the year 2008 and 7.2 per cent in 2009. Agricultural growth slowed to 5.3 per cent in 2010 hitting 0.8 per cent in 2011. It then stayed down at 2.2 per cent in 2012 recovering somewhat to 5.7 per cent in 2013 and then 4.6 per cent in 2014”.

According to him, “The growth registered in the two years of 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 reforestation, the obvious implication is that we are further degrading our forest cover and opening the country up for the invasion of savannah and Saharan conditions.

“The crop sector which engages most of the 4.5 million farmers in this country, recorded growth of only 3.6 per cent in 2014. The 2015 budget statement expected a 5.8 per cent growth. In the event, the recorded growth was not even half of it, it was only 2.4 per cent in 2015. … Over the last six years, since 2010, we have an average growth of 3.5 per cent per year. It is not even half of the Malleable Declaration of minimum target of 6 per cent per annum for all African countries. This declaration, Ghana is a major signatory to. And it is saying that the target for agricultural growth must be a minimum of 6 per cent and Ghana as I’ve demonstrated to you has done only 3.5 per cent.

“With a population growth rate of 2.7 per cent per annum, Ghanaian agriculture is growing at a net rate of only 0.8 per cent per annum. It accounts for the rapid urbanisation typified by the Kayayei phenomenon …so you see that the sector is not performing at all.”