Friday, October 20, 2017

Stakeholders Renew Hopes In Agric - As 2018 Budget Focuses On Ailing Sector

3:08:00 AM


After years of neglect, agriculture has reemerged as a sector to watch as the government intends to place it at the forefront of its 2018 budget which will be presented to Parliament in a few weeks time.

This has brought some excitement and renewed the hopes and confidence of stakeholders in the sector as the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), the Ghana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) and the Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC) believe it will make the sector more dynamic and be a catalyst for economic transformation..
 
Speaking in an interview with the GRAPHIC BUSINESS, the Programme Coordinator of the PFAG, Ms Victoria Adongo, the Coordinator of GTLC, Mr Ibrahim Akalbilla and the General Secretary of GAWU, Mr Edward Kareweh all applauded the government for the move which they said would lead the sector back to the path of growth if the right investments were made.

Mr Akalbilla said it was clear the government intended to invest heavily in agric which was great news for the ailing sector which had been on a steady decline in recent years.

He, however, cautioned that making the investments was just the first step and would not amount to anything if the right investments were not made.

The countrys agricultural sector has declined steadily for seven years in terms of its contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as it declined from 31.8 per cent in 2009 to 29.8 percent in 2010, 25.3 per cent in 2011, 22.7 per cent in 2012, 22.4 per cent in 2013, 21.5 per cent in 2014, and 19 per cent in 2015.This has been blamed on low production level which is as a result of lack of investments in the sector.

He said the budget should ,therefore, focus on investments that would increase productivity in the sector.

Access to credit

He said one of the important issues that the budget should target was the facilitation of credit to as many farmers as possible.

If the budget will have a project that will allow farmers to access lower sources of credit in the country, then it will enable the farmers to acquire their own inputs on a timely basis, he stated.

He also urged the government to look at resourcing research and development institutions to enable them to come out with innovations that would support farmers to maximise their yields.

Over the years, we have been given fertiliser and seed subsidies but still the yields are low so we need to resource the research and development institutions to come up with new technologies that will improve the fortunes of farmers, he noted.

Market access

Ms Victoria Adongo also, for her part, advised the government to look at creating market access for farmers and not just concentrate on production.

Its not only about production because much as we have challenges with production, there is also the challenge of lack of market, she stated.

She said the budget must ,therefore, come out with a plan that would ensure that when production is increased, there will be a market to take what would be produced so that the country doesnt end up recording post-harvest losses.

She also urged the government to invest in mechanisation and also step up its efforts of providing more extension officers.

Extension services is still a major concern to the sector and the government should continue to invest in this regard. Irrigation and storage facilities also continue to be a challenge, she stated.

Deepening existing policies

Mr Edward Kareweh also called for the need to deepen the existing policies that was in the 2017 budget.

However, this time round, we need a clear policy. If they want to increase production and investments in the sector in order to create jobs, there have to be a clear policy position on how the jobs are going to be created, he said.

We have to be able to identify the jobs and link the jobs to the particular programme. The Planting for Food and Jobs (PFAJ) initiative, for instance, is expected to create 750,000 jobs but we were not told how the jobs will be created, he explained.

He added that besides that, if you look at the 750,000 jobs that are supposed to be created, they cannot be created because the PFAJ itself is a programme that is between three to four months because of the type of crops its targeting. These are crops whose gestation period is three to four months so how do they intend to create the 750,000 jobs

Mr Kareweh also warned the government not to hurry to expand the number of registered farmers under the programme in the next budget.

He said it should not just be about increasing the numbers but making sure that the existing numbers who have registered were handled efficiently.


By Ghana Leaks Blog


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