$2.3bn Food Import Is Killing Agric- NPP

The Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Parliament has accused the Mahama-led government of making the country more dependent on food imports as a result of the total neglect of the agricultural sector which has seen unprecedented negative growth in the history of the country.

According to the minority, since the current NDC government took over power in 2008, food import have sharply risen from $344 million to a staggering $2.3 billion, which is seven times the figure it came to meet.

The NDC government has consciously been slashing the budget for the agriculture sector every year, thereby affecting the performance of the sector badly which is the backbone of the economy, it disclosed.

The minority made the revelation at a press conference addressed by the minority spokesperson on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto at Parliament House in Accra yesterday.

Dr Afriyie Akoto said the total $2.3 billion of food imports represent only rice, sugar, poultry, fish, wheat, vegetable oil, vegetables and salt.

He said Ghana spent $10 million to import salt from Brazil last year but the country has huge prospects in salt production that could help give employment to many Ghanaians.

Dr Afriyie Akoto said the disturbing aspect of the government’s penchant for importation of some staples which could easily be produced here is that apart from the hard-earned foreign exchange used to import the food which eventually creates more agricultural job opportunities for countries of import, these huge imports pose serious threat to the survival of local farmers and fishermen and also affect balance of payment of the economy.

“These imports are competing directly with local production under trade conditions which are putting our local farmers, fishers and overall food security at risk,” the minority spokesperson said.

Looking at the terrible performance of the NDC in agriculture over the last eight years and the overzealous and unrealistic promises made in its 2016 manifesto to transform agriculture, it would be more accurate to describe that promise as mere rhetoric, he explained.

“Looking at the absence of incentives for farmers, lack of credit, little or no inputs for farmers to expand their farms, this government promises of ‘Green Revolution’ in its 2016 manifesto which will help double food production in the next four years but ‘Green Revolution’ would succeed when there is an assurance of adequate supply of services and inputs to farmers, including improved seeds, chemicals, extension services, irrigation, marketing, farm credit and mechanisation yet under this government these resources and services are either stagnant or declining,” he said, stressing that the NDC has failed to lay the necessary foundation to improve agriculture as promised in its 2016 manifesto.

He said the NPP, which would launch its manifesto on Sunday, October 9, will give vivid details of how to improve agriculture under Akufo-Addo’s presidency.

He said for instance that the NPP will replenish the financial allocations to research institutions in order to revive active agricultural research and also involve the district assemblies in support of farmers and fishermen in on-farm production and marketing of their produce.

“We shall collaborate with commercial banks and use legislation to ensure adequate funding for farmers, fishers and their related activities of marketing and agro-processing.

In the savanna zone, we shall pursue the ‘one village, one dam’ policy which will focus on boreholes, dugouts and small community dams in our irrigation policy,” the minority spokesperson said, stressing that the NPP would adopt the concept ‘small is beautiful’ in its approach to agricultural development.

By Thomas Fosu Jnr