Statement: NDC Gov’t Collapsing Fortunes Of Food And Agriculture In Ghana

Our focus today is the poor performance of food and agriculture and the negative effects on the people of this country. Without any shred of doubt large sections of the nation’s rising population continue to suffer deprivation, hunger and deepening poverty.

This contrasts sharply with the glorious picture painted by statements such as those expressed by the NDC administration in the previous two State of the Nation addresses and Budget statements.

POOR GROWTH PERFORMANCE

Fellow Ghanaians, by the measure of annual growth performance, Ghana’s
agriculture has been grinding to a virtual halt since the 2007 farming season. From negative 1.7% in drought-hit 2007, agricultural growth recovered strongly to 7.4% in 2008, 7.2% in 2009 and then slowed to 5.3% in 2010. Growth hit the bottom of 0.8% in 2011, then stayed down at 1.3% in 2012. The 2013 Budget Statement expects a 4.9% growth in the agriculture sector. That in itself is not ambitious enough in a so-called better Ghana environment. Even then the indications so far are that we shall be lucky to end the year 2013 with growth of more than 2.5%. The sharp decline in cocoa production since the peak 1 million MT in 2010/2011 and the rising retail price of fertilizers and other farm inputs, support this assessment.

The poor annual growth (2.5% average in the last three years) in agriculture, compares unfavourably with an oil-driven average growth of some 10% in the general economy during the same period. Such a huge growth differential between the economy and agriculture signals the onset of the “Dutch Disease”. There is therefore an urgent need for this NDC administration to take major measures to turn around the poor agricultural performance, if the country is to avoid social and
economic disaster.

There are far reaching implications of such a poor growth performance for both the economy and the citizenry. Consider the fact that the agricultural sector continues to provide the greatest employment opportunities for majority of our workforce; provides a substantial part of our foreign exchange earnings; and the fact that the
poorest in our society are found among the 4.5 million farmers and fisher folks who reside in the rural areas. The drastic slowdown of agricultural growth means rising unemployment, increasing malnutrition and deepening poverty especially, in the rural areas with the consequent acceleration of migration of kayayei and other
deprived persons to the urban centres with all the related social dislocation we are already witnessing.

STAGNANT FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
Ladies and gentlemen, the poor growth performance of agriculture is reflected in stagnant or declining production of the major staple food crops, livestock, fisheries and in the all-important cocoa industry.

Staple Foods
The production of basic food staples (cereals, legumes, roots and tubers) has seen stagnant growth in last few years. This has reduced food security in the country. The large yearly fluctuations witnessed in the production of maize and rice and the sharp increase in the imports of rice from 395,400 metric tonnes in 2008 to 543,465 metric tonnes in 2011, i.e. an increase of 37.5% in just three years, attest
to the deepened food insecurity in Ghana.ii The steady growth in the roots and tubers sub-sector can clearly be attributed to policy initiatives (Root and Tuber

Improvement and Marketing Programme) undertaken by the NPP administration from 2005 onwards.

Meat and Fish
The production of meat and fish, which contribute the bulk of protein supply to Ghanaian consumers, has been stagnant in recent years with corresponding increase in imports to meet rising domestic demand. Imports of livestock and poultry products have risen from about 128,000 metric tonnes in 2008 to about 140,000 metric tonnes in 2011.iii This has happened in spite of the very punitive
levy imposed on poultry products. Urgent attention is therefore required if protein deficiency amongst the poor in particular in the rapidly rising population is to be arrested.

Premix Fuel
The previous NPP government sold premix fuel to fishermen at outlets that were created at the various canoe beaches. Today many of these outlets have been closed down. For instance, the Tema Manhean beach had 8 outlets. Today, that community that has about 2000 canoes has only 4 outlets. These few remaining outlets do not have regular supply of premix fuel.

The NDC government has established the Local Premix Committees (LPC), on the face of it, to ensure a fairer distribution of premix fuel to fishermen and to avoid artificial shortages. This policy has clearly failed as persistent reports of shortages abound in all fishing communities and party card is increasingly becoming the
determining factor in the allocation of the resource. The newly-imposed 20% increase in the official price which fishermen pay for premix fuel (from GHp66.82 to GHp80.14 per litre) will add to the woes of fisher folks and increase the rampant corruption in the industry. Most fishermen pay well above the official price due to
irregular and inadequate supplies of premix fuel to the fishing industry.

The fisheries laws (Act 164 and LI 1964), designed to protect the dwindling fish stocks in our coastal and inland waters and to shore up collapsing annual tonnage of catches, are not being implemented vigorously for political convenience. This can only deepen the already intolerable poverty levels prevalent in fishing communities.

Cocoa
Ladies and gentlemen, the country attained a peak production of just over one million metric tonnes of cocoa production in the year 2010/2011. This achievement was a result of policies and programmes (mass spraying, etc) initiated and implemented by the NPP administration under President J A Kufuor which witnessed the doubling of cocoa production from 360,000 metric tonnes in 2001/2002 to 740,458 metric tonnes by 2005/2006; and then to one million metric
tonnes in 2010/2011.

Since the attainment of this record production, there has been a fall in output to some 879,000 metric tonnes in the 2011/2012 crop season. It is indicated that production of the current 2012/2013 crop is likely to yield only 800,000 metric tonnes. This steady reduction is a reflection of the poor implementation of policies pursued by the NDC administration in the past four years.
These include:

– Unreliable supply of inputs to farmers;

– The politicisation of the mass spraying programme;

– Smuggling of subsidised inputs into neighbouring countries

– The inability of the government to pay annual production bonus to farmers on a timely basis;

– Delay in payment to farmers for their produce even after Parliament has approved of loans to PBC to purchase cocoa beans from the farmers.

– The failed promises by the NDC Government to provide cocoa farmers with incentives like housing, a pension and feeder roads to cocoa growing communities; and

– The mass destruction of cocoa trees by illegal small-scale miners
(Galamsey) in major cocoa-producing regions, in particular Western and
Ashanti regions.

If these measures are not addressed urgently, there is a danger that production could decline further in the coming seasons.

FAILED POLICIES OF THE NDC GOVERNMENT

Fellow citizens, in spite of the pressing needs of the farmers, the NDC government has not adopted adequate measures to reduce the burden of Ghanaian farmers, contrary to the rhetoric and propaganda. Lack of focus of agricultural policy is reflected in misplaced emphasis on window-dressing schemes such as the Youth in Agriculture, Block Farming and the now infamous Guinea Fowl and Afforestation projects of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA).

Such programmes designed to address youth unemployment in the short term, are now absorbing disproportionate public resources away from the pressing needs of the millions of small-scale farmers around the country who continue to produce the large bulk of agricultural output.
Ladies and gentlemen, the NPP believes that the principle underpinning the Guinea fowl and Afforestation projects as poverty alleviation programmes are worthy. What is extremely worrisome is the management of these projects which has resulted in huge financial losses to the State.

BUDGET ALLOCATION TO AGRICULTURE

The 2013 Budget allocated GH¢ 340.8 million to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA). This amount represents less than 2.2% of the total budgetary allocation. This compares to 3.8% in 2010 and 2.7% in 2011 and 1.9% in 2012. Such low allocation will not mend the stagnant agriculture growth which has characterised our performance in the recent years. Indeed the amount of GH¢340.8 million will not even turn around the agriculture of the Northern Region, let alone that of the whole country. What makes the situation even worse is that this year’s allocation is already facing the perennial problem of uneven releases whereby budgetary funds are held up during these critical months of the farming season – May, June, July, August 2013.

SPECIAL IMPORT LEVY

The NDC Government in the past few weeks has imposed a special import levy on the import of agricultural chemicals, farm machinery and equipment, outboard motors, fishing nets, cutlasses and other basic farm inputs. All this in a desperate attempt to raise taxes. The damage to farmers and fishers is obvious. The levy will increase the cost of farming and increase foods prices. Farmers, fishermen, poultry farmers and other producers of staple foods will be worse off.

Consumers of staple foods will also be negatively affected. Since the poor in society spend over 60% of their meagre income on food, they would be hit hardest by this insensitive levy. Malnutrition is becoming the order of the day at a time the nation is on the curve to achieving the MDGs.

FERTILIZERS AND OTHER INPUTS

Millions of Ghanaian farmers and fishermen continue to suffer from low
productivity because of inadequate supply of improved inputs (seeds, fertilizer, agro chemicals and pre-mix fuel) and lack of market access and farm credit. The mass smuggling of subsidised fertilizer and other farm chemicals across our borders to neighbouring countries, is a clear testimony of the failure of farm input policies.

The 2013 Budget provides for the distribution of 180,000 metric tonnes of subsidized fertilizer to farmers compared to 170,000 metric tonnes supplied in 2012. The plan to use computers to assist in the distribution of fertilizers and seeds as anticipated in the 2013 Budget has failed. There is an urgent need to change completely the invoice system of payment to importers for fertilizers distributed to
farmers.

AGRICULTURE EXTENSION

The link between the farmer and modern technology for the needed transformation of Ghanaian agriculture, is the agricultural extension officer. But the ratio of the number of farmers to an extension officer has swollen to 3,000-to-one; one of the highest in the
world. What is worse – a significant number of officers are close to the age of retirement! Yet, in the last five years or so recruitment of farm extension officers has remained frozen. Students passing out from our agricultural colleges are dumped on the heap of the mounting youth unemployment.

Apart from frozen recruitment and the retirement age, extension officers at post lack the needed logistics to travel to meet farmers on their farms. Under the NDC administration, extension officers have been denied fuel and field allowances to work with farmers.

AGRICULTURAL MECHANISATION

Ladies and gentlemen, the plan this year to establish Agriculture Mechanisation Service Centres in 170 districts has been repeated in each Budget year since 2009.

Yet the number of centres continue to fall. From 86 centres in 2009 the number has fallen to 62 centres by 2012. Many of these centres are likely to close due to lack of spare parts for existing tractors and other farm machinery. The intention to import 2,000 tractors in 2013 will remain a mirage, going by the broken promises in past years. As we speak letters of credit have not as yet been established for the importation of these tractors.

IRRIGATION

Fellow Ghanaians, how many times have we not heard of the commencement of the Accra Plains irrigation project? In 2009 government promised to commence with 5,000 hectares. This same figure of 5,000 hectares was again promised in the 2010 budget. 10,000 hectares was pledged to be irrigated in the 2011 budget, whereas total land area to be irrigated in the 2013 budget document is 11,000 hectares. Nothing has happened so far, in spite of the fact that the outgoing NPP administration in 2008 left behind detailed plans for immediate implementation in respect of the Accra Plains irrigation project.

YOUTH IN AGRICULTURE AND BLOCK FARMING PROGRAMMES

These two programmes typify the distraction of policy focus away from the major operators in food and agriculture – the nearly 5 million small holder farmers and fishermen in this country. These programmes are now absorbing a disproportionate amount of scarce public resources. Average yields per acre of maize and other crops from these two programmes have consistently been below those on small holdings. Apart from the lower productivity, the rate of loan capital recovery is very low.

Beneficiaries, most of whom are selected on the basis of political party loyalty, literally walk away without paying for the inputs provided in kind. These programmes have become a huge drain on public resources with little results.

BUFFER STOCK

The Buffer Stock Company established in 2009 is highly undercapitalised for the task assigned to it to support the local grain market. Recent reports of stocks of maize locked up in farming communities in the Northern Region clearly demonstrate the failure of the Buffer Stock Programme of this NDC Government.

To make real impact, the Buffer Stock Company requires to be a major player in the over 300,000 metric tonne domestic grain market. Yet they do not have the resources to handle even a tenth of that tonnage. The company has become only a token institution and not an instrument of real intervention in the market to support grain prices received by poor farmers.

CONCLUSION

Fellow citizens, as we all can see from the account so far, it is clear that food, agriculture and cocoa are in a deplorable situation. The NDC in their 2008 manifesto promised Ghanaians that by the end of 2012 they would have “sufficiently modernised agriculture to assure food security for the people and dependable raw materials source for industry”. No such deed has happened. The government has to act urgently to avoid the affliction of the Dutch Disease on Ghana with the emerging oil and gas industry.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, we thank you for your time and attention.

Minority New Patriotic Party in Parliament.

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