Minority caucus in Parliament has predicted a gloomy future for the country’s agriculture and has called for immediate solution to help sustain the sector.
Statistics provided by the Minority spokesperson on Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, at a press conference organised mainly by NPP Members of Parliament (MP) in Parliament to highlight challenges facing the country’s agricultural sector with specific reference to cocoa production predicted the bad future.
“This country’s Agriculture is grinding to a halt and he himself [President Mahama] admitted it three days ago because if you say that you spent US$1.5 billion to import basic foods like rice and cooking oil and so on, [then] you are in serious trouble and that precisely points to the fact that Agriculture is grinding to a halt…,” he affirmed.
Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, who is an agronomist and the MP for Kwadaso, stressed that the NDC government and its agriculture ministers are “not prepared to admit” but instead are arguing that the country is gaining from low value crops like yam and cassava.
He added that despite the economy growing between 8 and 10% annually, a performance graph of the agricultural sector within the last five years clearly indicates that it is taking a nose dive.
From an average growth rate of 7.4% in 2008 to 7.2% in 2009 and 5.3% in 2010, the country experienced a sharp decline to negative one (-1) per cent in 2011, a situation he described as very dangerous.
“…the following year 2012, it [agriculture performance] didn’t go up that much, recording 1.3, in 2013, they [the Mahama administration] projected initially that it would be 4.8, [but] it ended up at a provisional 3.5…,” continuing that there was no way the country was going to achieve the estimated increase in agriculture as the president had predicted.
Against this backdrop, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto called on the minister of agriculture and the president to work hard if Ghana wants to avert the effects of the Dutch Disease.
“The industry is on its knees and what has government done about it” if indeed government is committed to solving the canker of the downward growth of agriculture in relation to the general economy.
Flanked by his Minority Leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu and other MPs on the Agriculture Committee of Parliament, the minority spokesperson on agriculture called on the government to also put in place measures to halt the migration of farmers from cocoa production to other cash crops and mining as well.
He tasked government to, among other things, substantially increase the price paid to cocoa farmers and also restore its policy of awarding cocoa farmers 70% of the Free on Board (FOB) price of cocoa.
“At today’s world prices and exchange rate, this means the price paid to producers should be increased from the current GH¢3,392 per metric tonne (GH¢212 per 64kg bag) to GH¢5,103 (GH¢319 per bag), equivalent to a rise of 50.4%,” he said.
The increment in producer price of the commodity, the NPP MP said, was necessary as government during the 2012-2013 crop seasons only awarded a token of five per cent increase against domestic inflation rate of about ten per cent.
This, he continued, is to cushion famers against the rising interest rates and other economic indicators, which has made the cocoa farmer poorer.
He said the present adverse economic situation of cocoa farmers warrant a substantial increase in the price paid to them and also improve on the supply of fertilisers to the farmers.
All these, he said, would help halt the rampant smuggling of the commodity to neighbouring countries where the prices are very high compared to how much the government purchases the commodity in Ghana.
The NDC government, he said, should as well imitate the actions of the erstwhile Kufuor administration which led to the country recording a peak of 800,000 metric tonnes in the 2010/2011 cocoa season.
“If the current negative economic conditions on cocoa farms persist, the reduction in production and exports is likely to continue in the coming years.”