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Afriyie Akoto launches NPP flagbearership campaign [full text]

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The immediate past Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has delivered a public lecture at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), on the topic, “The future of the economy of Ghana.”

The event saw Dr Akoto share insights into building the agricultural sector into a bedrock for financing the development of other sectors of the economy.

Below is his full lecture as delivered:

I am deeply honoured to be here in this great Institution, the University of Professional Studies, Accra, to deliver this speech which marks my maiden entry into the flagbearership race of the New Patriotic Party. The topic is THE FUTURE OF THE ECONOMY OF GHANA -TRANSFORMING AGRICULTURE FOR THE PROSPERITY OF ALL.

I am pleased to mention that we are LIVE on several media platforms, and we have Ghanaians tuning in from all across Ghana and the diaspora, as well as many Africans and the international community.

I thank the University of Professional Studies, Accra for providing the platform for this maiden event.

When I began my journey into politics in Ghana in 1990 with the formation of the United Kingdom Branch of the Danquah-Busia Club with stalwarts like the late Mr. J.H. Mensah, little did I know that one day I will be contesting for the highest position of the NPP.

At this moment, I cannot help but recall my childhood with my father, Okyeame Baffour Osei Akoto who left many lessons in his wake for us all, including me, to learn from and build on. Now, as you might imagine, as a young boy I was not always happy following my father around, whether it was to Manhyia Palace or the Northern Regions of this Country. Like many young boys my age, there were times I would have preferred to have fun with my friends or stay by my mother’s side. My mother was a professional teacher back then and is alive today at the blessed age of 95. Watching my father’s commitment to public service both as a traditional leader and a modern political leader at the time, defined key moments in my life as I grew up. He instilled in me the passion for service and to serve my motherland Ghana, with all that is within me even if it cost me an arm and a leg.

For those who know me well, I am known to be “confident” “very passionate” and to have “strong” views on many subjects. Frequently, I have often been perceived as being too serious and arrogant but that is far from reality. In fact, I am a very friendly, open-hearted, and affable person (laugh).

As I stand before you here today to share my vision for the future, I am moved by the immense support that I have received so far ever since I announced my intention to contest the flagbearership race. I never knew there were so many who have quietly followed my progress in politics over the years and continue to believe in me.

It is also by no mistake that we chose this venue as the entry point to my contest. Universities are citadels for ideas that generate innovations for sustainable development. They provide not just educated workers or job seekers but knowledge workers who are able and expected to create jobs in society. The future of Ghana depends on you.

Dear Students, what you are learning in your various academic pursuits today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future. We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and your intellect so you can help us the older ones to solve our Nation’s most difficult problems, together.

I strongly believe, Agriculture, will lift Ghana out of poverty and assure us not only of food and nutrition security, but also, generate the necessary resources for the development of the other sectors including Industry, Health, Education and Infrastructure in the medium to long term.

Mr. Chairman, globally, there is a new economic order emerging. This is evident from the current economic challenges confronting the world. Food, Renewable Energy, Water and Big Data, will drive this new order. Africa, and for that matter, Ghana has the potential to lead this new order by strengthening all sectors of the economy and transforming agriculture sustainably to feed and enrich its people, whilst contributing to the food and nutrition needs of the 9.7 billion people by 2050 as estimated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Africa is plagued with the difficulty in transforming its agricultural sector into a driver of sustainable development, food security, and improved livelihoods, and I admit that Africa has not done enough. Over 200 million Africans continue to struggle with food insecurity. This issue has been further deepened by COVID 19, the effects of climate change on agricultural production, political unrest across the continent, macroeconomic instability, and the raging debt crisis that many African governments face. Despite these obstacles, the agricultural sector offers immense and significant opportunities for transforming Africa’s economy from a net importer of food to the provider of food to the rest of the world.

In Ghana, we are facing many challenges such as high rate of unemployment at 13.9% as at the second quarter of 2022, high rate of inflation at 54% as at February 2023 as well as the economic crisis which we find ourselves in, now.

Mr. Chairman, in most advanced countries today, Agriculture was the driver of economic development.

Brazil, China, Malaysia and Thailand are recent examples of agricultural success stories.

The EUgives us an example of how investments in Agriculture can impact economic transformation. The development of improved varietiesof crops(aka Plant Breeding) between 2000 and 2020,led by Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK,contributed immensely to the EU Economy includingincreased yields, improved market and trade conditions, contribution to the increase in world food supply, security and trade.These prevented the EU from becoming a net importer in all major crops, including wheat and other cereals.

The development and scaling up of improved varieties of crops was indispensable for combating hunger and malnutritionin the EU- making food available for 114 million of its citizens andincreasing social welfare by significant margins. Thisinjected 26 billionEuros intothe EU economy,as well as created and secured more thanan additional 90,000 direct jobs in its agricultural value chain.

Mr. Chairman, Ghana’s dream of using agriculture as the driver for economic development can be traced as far back as the 1920s when the then governor, Gordon Guggisberg made pronouncements backed by initial investments to make agriculture work. Successive governments since then have made various attemptstowards agricultural development in this direction. Yetthere has been inadequate commitment to full agricultural transformation. However, as the immediate past Minister for Food and Agriculture, I am confident that the Akufo Addo government has laid a solid foundation upon which a thriving sustainable agriculture can be built in the coming years, for the prosperity of all.

Mr. Chairman, may I seek your indulgence to present to this audience, the foundations that have been laid under my watch, in the 6 years of my stewardship of the Ministry.

  • FOUNDATION LAID TO DATE(Achievements)
  1. Food Security

The government made significant Investment in farm inputs in order to increase agricultural productivity to raise, incomes of farmers, andto achieve national food security. The Ministry procured and distributed 1.4 million MT of fertilizer and 93,192 MT of improved seeds which were distributed to over 1.7 million farmers from 2017 to 2021.

As a result of these measures, Maize yields increased from 1.8mt/ha to 3.0mt/ha; Rice yield increased from 2.7mt/ha to 4.0mt/ha and Soya yield increased from 1Mt/ha to 2.5Mt/ha, in the period from 2017 to 2021. With Planting For Food and Jobs (PFJ) intervention, production of maize has risen from 1.7 million MT in 2016 to 3.6 million MT in 2021, Rice from 688,000MT to 1.2 million MT, and soya from 143,000MT to 230,000MT over the same period.

An estimated investment of Gh₵2.6 billion was made by governmentas subsidyon improved seeds and fertilizers for the period of 2017 to 2021. The value of production from the application of the subsidized inputs of seeds and fertilizers is estimated at Gh₵47.5 billion. This is a huge economic rate of return on public expenditure on the farm subsidy programme.

In 2017, 202,000 farmers benefited from the PFJ Subsidy Program.By 2021, the beneficiaries had grown to 1.7 million farmers out of a total farmer population of 3.1million in Ghana, as captured by the Agricultural Census of 2018 – the first in 38 years.

  • Tree Crop Diversification

Ghana has fallen into an almost perpetual cycle of dependency on external financial support from the International Monetary Fund and other bilateral partners to sustain our economy. In 66 years, Ghana has approached the IMF on 17 occasions to borrow. The lesson from our journey with the IMF and bilateral donors is indicative of the urgent need to expand the export earning capacity of the economy. In the short to medium term, only the agricultural sector can establish that capacity toachieve sustained rapid economic growth.

I strongly believe that prioritising agriculture is a sureway for achieving the accelerated growth needed in theother sectors of the economy and creating the needed jobs for our people.During my tenure as the Ministr for Food and Agriculture, I initiated the establishment of the Tree crop Development Authority underan Act of Parliament, Act 1010 in the year 2019. The Tree Crop Development Authority (TCDA), established in 2020, seeks to coordinate and promote the development of six tree crops – cashew, rubber, oil palm, coconut, mango and shea. The goal of the Authority is to develop, produce and distribute the selected cash crop seedlings to farmers so as to produce and generate a combined potential ofexport earnings of between $6 to $12 billion per year after 8-10 years of implementation.[Repeat].At their full development, the additional USD6-12 billion per year in earnings can complement the less than USD2 billion annualearnings from cocoa.

The TCDA was designed to receive a seed fund of 15million US Dollars in the first three years of its creation. Unfortunately, in its 3rd year of operation, it has so far received only $1.3million equivalent to 25% of the capital needed since its establishment in 2020.

By prioritising the Tree Crop sub-sector, we would be weaned off our financial dependency on the IMF and other bilateral donors.If we had started this journey decades ago, we would have been reaping the economic benefits, for the prosperity of all.

In Cote D’Ivoire, total annual export earnings from five cash crops – cashew, cocoa, coffee, rubber and palm oil, fetches the economy some US$8 billion every year compared to less than US$2 billion in Ghana. Cote D’Ivoire which started this program decades ago has been enjoying these economic benefits of tree crops all these years.

COCOA

In addition, the National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme(NCHP) has been designed to renew the productive capacity of the cocoa industry.The Programme was launched in 2020 to scale up the promotion and production of Cocoa to provide more income to the economy and farmers and create more jobs. As a result of the success of the programme, thousands of farmers who had abandoned their cocoa farms due to the devastating effect of the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) have returned to their farms. Currently, a total farm area of 56,343 hectares has been fully treated across the cocoa growing regions of Ghana as of 30th September 2022, although not enough.

An important part of the NCHP is to support the private sector to expand local cocoa processing, vigorous promotion to boostdomestic and international consumption and promote market expansion of the export of cocoa products into new markets.The National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programmewhen fully implemented should generate more foreign exchange earnings from cocoa.

  • Horticulture Development through Greenhouse Production

During my time as Minister of Agriculture, we implemented the construction of three greenhouse training centres with an attached commercial unit at Dawhenya, Akumadan and Bawjiase for training 537 youth in high-quality vegetable production. These vegetables are sold to high end shops such as Palace Mall, Shoprite, Starbites, KFC and Burger King in Tema, Accra and Kumasi.

As part of the training, 540 youth trainees and students from various tertiary institutions were sent to Israel for an 11-month paid internship to gain practical experience in modern farming practices. These were part of efforts to attract the youth intoagriculture. The returnees form Israel are assisted to set up their own farm enterprises.

  • Rearing for Food and Jobs

The Protein Consumptionby the Ghanaian population is critical to the health of the nation. The livestock sub-sector plays a significant role in the provision of proteins in our food. There is a plan at the Ministry to create a Poultry Development Authority to promote of the industry.

Under my watch theVeterinary Services have seen substantial improvements. We have installed new laboratories, reequippedold ones and recruited 500 additionalVeterinary personnel.We have also encouraged and supported local meat processing andsubstantially expanded soya bean production.

Nevertheless, Ghana’s Poultry industry still faces various challenges, key amongst them is the high cost of feed and high importation of poultry products unto the market. There is a double-edged solution to this. The first is to regulate the importation of Chicken and other meat products and secondly, to address the cost of feed. This will be tackled as a major responsibility of the incoming Grain Development Authority (which I will speak on later) which is tasked to make all necessary interventions to solve the problem. As part of its responsibilities, the GDA will purchase grains at the time of harvest when the prices are low, store the grains and release them to the poultry farmers and other stakeholders in the value Chain.

In addition, when seasonal prices risevarious interventions have been made to increase production in other areas of the Livestock industry.

  • Agricultural Mechanisation

The Ministry since 2017, have received and distributed a total of 12,200 pieces of agricultural machinery and equipment from Brazil, Czech Republic and China at 40% subsidy to farmers. The machinery includes tractors, harvesters, irrigation equipment, food processing and post-harvest management equipment. Additionally, a tractor assembling plant is being established near Ejisu in the Ashanti Region.

Processes have been concluded with the Exim Bank of India to provide a facility to import $150 million worth of farm and agro-processing machinery. Shipments are expected in Ghana in the course of this year 2023.

Of the machinery so far received, 32 District Assemblies and selected private sector operators have benefitted from a scheme to create Agricultural Mechanisation Centres to providehiring Services to both small and large scale farmers.

Mr. Chairman, in addition to the 5 modules of the Planting for Food and Jobs Program discussed above, I ledcreation of institutions to drive the gains made so far. Apart from the Tree Crop Development Authority, the institutions are as follows:

  • Grains Development Authority

Irrespective of limited resources and global crises such as Covid 19, Russia-Ukraine war, climate change, amongst others, under my leadership of the sector, Ghana has improved its food security index and made food availableto all – all year round. The country has also been transformed into the breadbasket of West Africa maintaining self-sufficiency in our staple crops. This is a practical example of Agriculture providing resilience to the Ghanaian economy.

To this end, there is currently a Bill before Parliament for the establishment of the Grains Development Authority.ThisBill seeks to amend the Grains Development Authority Law, 1970 (Act 324).The Grains Development Authoritywill be responsible for promoting Research and Development, Production, Marketing, and Exports. It will be a regulatory body for the grains sub-sector.

A Memorandum proposing legislation requiring all commercial banks to increase loanable funds to Agriculture and its value chains have been submitted to Cabinet for approval and onward submission to Parliament. This legislation is to address the acute shortage of Agricultural credit in the Country.

Also in the pipeline are a draft Cabinet Memoranda for the establishment of the Horticultural Development Authority and the Poultry Development Authority.

(BREAK/APPLAUSE)

Mr. Chairman, the global and national goal to achieve equality, equity and inclusion for all women is a critical step for the economic empowerment of all women in Ghana. The contribution of women in Agriculture is extensive and includes the roles of providing labour for weeding, planting, harvesting and processing, accounting for over 70% of food crop production in the country. Yet,many women across the country involved in farming are plagued with issues of illiteracy, lack of knowledge or appreciation of technology, land acquisition and ownership issues, amongst others. These issueswill be addressed.

  1. In one of my travels to a small village in the Volta Region during my time as Minister, I encountered a widow, Mawuena, who grows maize, okro, garden eggs and pepper to sell in order to feed 15 persons in her household. These include five children who are her own, five other children that she also takes care of, and five grandchildren. All Mawuena needed was the supply of improved seeds and some basic technology in order to triple her yield on the same size piece of land.

In moving forward, we must engage to create common wealth that sees to the needs of the common people. There is the need for a new innovative business model, value addition, productive stakeholder engagement including the youth, smallholder farmers and large-scale farmers, all in agribusiness for adequate and affordable food and high value export to fully benefit from the gains of the sector.

  • From a conversation I picked up with Yaw Adu, a Tomato farmer in Akumadan, Offinso North District, lack of basic literacy skills results in making of poor farming decisions which eventually affects his yield andprofit. These include inability to read and make uninformed decisions to purchase ordinary seeds from the market rather than improved seeds.

Meanwhile, under the Government Subsidy Program, government expenditure on improved seeds and fertilizers amounted to 2.6 billion Ghana Cedis. Total production by the application of these inputs amounted to 47.5 billion Ghana Cedis in the 5-year period 2017 – 2021. To optimize the gains from such investments, we must further invest inthe education of farmers like Yaw Adu, wherever they are in the country.

  • Fawzia Garba, one of many women in Yendi cannot afford to buy fertilizer, certified seeds or even gain access to hired tractor services for the timely ploughing of her land. Most farmers in Ghana do not have access and/or the know how to operate basic farming technologies and systems. Most do not own phones and some of the few who do may only use it for just the making and receiving of calls, but not have the know how to access basic interventions delivered as alerts via sms to inform them of the weather forecast, available markets for their produce, etc.

Mr. Chairman, today, many farmers (big or small) and agro-processors may be watching or listening to me. The stories of Mawuena, Yaw Adu and Fawzia Garba, may not be different from yours.In reality, many current and potential farmers across the country have yet to receive the much-needed education, technology and the support they need in order to succeed. I can confidently inform the likes of Mawuena, Yaw Adu, Fawzia Garba and value chain actors that government policies on agriculture will beformulated with their interests at the top most consideration.

  • On the other side, there are stories to celebrate. At an Ejura Farmers forum, I encountered a female farmerwhosaid this at the forum “Honourable, in the past farming was the exclusive domain of illiterates like me. But now one finds all kinds of professionals including mechanics, teachers, nurses, doctors and lawyers have taken to farming”. This is a clear manifestation of how Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ)has attractedprofessionals to farming.

In the same forum, a former opposition Member of Parliament for the area, recounted how the PFJ Programprovided the catalyst for him to invest heavily in seed production. The program has also recorded thousands of suchpositive stories across various communities in the country.

  • Last year in Asamankese, I met two medical doctors who had hung up their stethoscopes to become fulltime farmers.One was a coconut farmer and the other a food crop farmer.
  • I cannot end my stories without sharing one also personal experience withThe King of Mamprusi,The NayIrI, whohas been a farmer all his life. InDecember 2019, when I visited his palace in Nalerigu, he was full of praises for PFJ. He informed me that for the first time in his community, stocks of new maize which werebeing harvestedat the time of my visit, had been brought into his barn when old stocks from the previous year (2018)were still available.In other words, Mr. Chairman, the King was acknowledging the success of the PFJ Program in his Kingdom

Mr. Chairman, while acknowledging that there is a lot of room for improvement in the PFJ, the stories that I have shared provide some evidence that the implementation of the program has been a resounding success. As indicated earlierGovernment expenditure on improved seeds and fertilizers amounted to 2.6 billion Ghana Cedis in the period 2017-2021. To optimize the gains from such investments, we must further invest in the education of farmers like Yaw Adu, wherever they are in the country.

There is the need for a new innovative business model, value addition, productive stakeholder engagement including the youth, smallholder farmers and large-scale farmers, all in agribusiness for adequate and affordable food and high value export to fully benefit from the gains of the sector.

  • THE NEW PARADIGM – THE CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS

Mr Chairman,

There is the urgent need for things to be done differently if we are to succeed in transforming our agriculture for the prosperity of all. The critical success factors in our transformation agenda will hinge on the following:

A. Political will –Ghana has to prioritize agricultural transformation at the highest level of government through the implementation of a well-defined vision and strategy. The investments needed to achieve sustainable food systems will be non-negotiable in my vision to transform agriculture for the prosperity of all. The first prime minister on India, Jawaharlal Nehru once said “Everything can wait, but not agriculture”.

B. Governance Structure

In addition to the Economic Management Team headed by the Vice President, there shall be a newly created Agricultural Management Team (AMT) chaired by the President himself to drive agricultural development. The AMT shall comprise seven Agric-related Ministries, namely: Food & Agriculture, Finance, Trade & Industry, Lands & Natural Resources, Transport, Local Government & Rural Development, and Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation.

C. Supply Chain Logistics and Market Access

To improve supply chain logistics and expand market access, infrastructure projects such as feeder roads, hospitals, housing, rural electrification, irrigation, storage will be integral in the agricultural transformation agenda.

D. Support Big Data and Technology for evidence-based decision making

Significant Investments shall be made in Big data and Technology for precise and evidence-based decision making in partnership with the Private Sector.

Agricultural policy must be driven by evidence. It is essential that policy makers, farmers and actors in the value chain are trained to access the benefits of data for decision making.  Precision agriculture that gives farmers the ability to use inputs more effectively to increase productivity will be prioritised.

We shall ensure that target users of technology are involved in every stage of the process. This will provide opportunities to empower the youth and create new jobs.

E. Research and Development

I shall appropriately fund the research endeavours of the diverse national agricultural research institutions, including the universities, in areas such as agronomy, extension, plant breeding, Integrated soil fertility management (ISFM), integrated pest and disease management (IPDM), post-harvest management (PHM) and climate-smart technologies.

We need to curb the effects of climate change and sustain yields in farmers’ fields, We must grow crops that are resilient to withstand drough, heavy rains and heat. Sustainable investment in science, technology and innovation in agricultural development will offer prosperity to all, including small holder farmers.

F. Develop and Strengthen both Input and Output Market Systems

I shall establish an appropriate regulatory framework to leverage private-sector investment across all sectors and promote the efficient distribution of agro-inputs.

In addition, the regulatory framework will seek to develop platforms for agricultural innovations, output market structures and incentives that allow for the full realization of the value of increased production.

 A well-funded and competitive private sector can manage and allocate skill and capital to scale-up agro-processing, value addition and drive long-term, sustainable agribusiness growth for job creation.

G. Human Development

A comprehensive strategy will be adopted to develop the human capital needed to take innovations to scale, along the entire agricultural commodity value chains.

This will include farmer field schools, demonstration plots, development of agro-preneurs, training of agricultural extension agents and value chain actors to improve efficiency.

We shall also support social development programs aimed at reducing illiteracy among rural households and farmers to increase the adoption of new technologies. We shall develop curricula in our educational system that shall equip students with the mindset, knowledge and skills for agricultural education.

Mr. Chairman,My overall vision for Ghana, Agriculture-led growth for the transformation of the economy will be achieved through innovation, value addition and entrepreneurship for a self-reliant, food-secure, wealthy, and a healthy nation.

In the next 7 years, the population of Ghana is expected to increase by 5 million. There will be more mouths to feed, amidst global economic and health crises, conflicts, an ever-changing environmental climate and other threats.

It is imperative that we use Science, Technology and Innovation to accelerate the growth of Agriculture.

I believe I have provided data to show that Agriculture can drive prosperity.

The need for Ghana to buy into a long-term strategy that drives prosperity for all is critical. The key pillars that I have outlined as critical success factors will inform a clear vision for a medium to long-term strategy to develop agriculture for the prosperity of all.

Agricultural developmentin countries like Ghana should not be addressed with ad-hoc measures. To achieve sustainable development, the National Development Planning Commission (which will be driven by the best brains in the country)would be tasked to put before the AMT that I have proposed, a long-term vision for Agricultural development.What I shall do is to take full responsibility for the agricultural transformation agenda in Ghana and ensure that we prosecute a long-term strategy for agricultural development backed by the required necessary resources.

What I have learnt working with Ghanaian farmers in the past six years especially, is that they need little persuasion to be called into action. The minimal incentive of the PFJ subsidy and others was enough to generate unprecedented growth in the sector (8.4% in 2021). Such hard work of the Ghanaian farmer represents a resource that the nation ought to tap into to get us out of the clutches of borrowing to finance our development.

I am appealing to all of us that we go back to the land, because it is the LAND that birthed civilization on earth. And, it is how we use our God-given land that will take us to the status of a first world that we all wish to become.

Mr. Chairman, I must reiterate here that Agriculture is the means to our end. 

TheTree Crop Development Authority and the other institutions outlined in this talk, can potentially generate substantial export earnings to fund industrial development, finance social sectors such as Health, Education, Housing, Infrastructure, Roads, amongst others as well as reduce our dependency on external sources of funds

Mr. Chairman, We have hope in this country. We can build “the Ghana We Want”, through Agriculture.

I thank you all for the kind attention.

God bless our Homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong. Thank you.

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