I am happy to be back in Koforidua, capital of my home region, the Eastern Region. I am grateful to Almighty God for yet another opportunity to join you honour our farmers, fishers and, indeed, all actors along the agricultural value chain for their invaluable contribution to our sustenance, and for the development of Mother Ghana.
Recent global events, which have led to a food crisis across the world, call for greater appreciation of what our farmers and fishers, here in Ghana, have done and continue to do for us.
On a daily basis, there are news reports of countries struggling under the combined weight of the forces of the COVID -19 pandemic, the climate crisis and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The effects of these forces entail disruption of supply chains, hikes in fuel prices, spiralling inflation and sharp reductions in economic growth. On the agricultural front, the impact is seen in the shortage and high cost of critical inputs for farming such as fertilizers. Significant rises in fuel prices, globally, have contributed to rising prices of food stuffs across the globe, and Ghana is no exception.
In response to the impact of the challenges to general food security, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, rallied World Leaders to a Food Systems Summit in September 2021 in which I participated, on the sidelines of the meeting of the General Assembly, to strategise on how to mitigate the growing threat to food systems. The emphasis, at the Summit, was to help avert extreme poverty and looming hunger, as specified in the UN Sustainable Development Goals I and II, respectively. It was a call to action by all countries to prioritise agriculture, and recommit to the transformation of food systems to build resilience and ensure sustainable food security.
In this respect, I find the theme for this year’s Farmers’ Day Celebration, “Accelerating Agricultural Development Through Value Addition”, most appropriate and timely. Value addition, as a means of accelerating the development of agriculture, is one of the logical strategies for ensuring food security, and rightly so. I say this because of the perennial problem of post-harvest losses experienced in most countries, including Ghana.
Since 2017, strategic interventions in the agriculture sector have emphasised value addition through the implementation of the One-District-One-Factory flagship programme by Government. It is instructive to note that one hundred and seventy-two (172) of the two hundred and ninety-six (296) factories to be established under the programme are agro-based, processing the rapidly increasing farm output of our farmers.
Clearly, it is evident that Ghana has been put firmly on the track of value addition. Government appreciates fully that value addition is the one of the best ways to unlocking the huge potential of Ghana’s agriculture. Current developments in the country have reinforced the need to direct greater attention to promoting value addition. As a country, it is important to draw on very hard lessons from the impact of external factors on our food systems. Food prices in urban centres are unacceptably high. However, it is equally true that some internal factors are also contributing to the high prices. Government continues to evaluate the situation for appropriate action to be taken.
Indeed, in July 2022, Cabinet set up an Inter-Ministerial Committee with the brief to intervene directly in the foodstuff market, by buying food at the farmgate, and transporting it for sale at urban centres. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture started a pilot food market in November, by arranging for traders to bring food items, such as plantain, yam and rice, direct to Accra from the production areas for direct sale to civil servants and the general public. The market has been so well patronised that it has been extended to four other locations within Greater Accra, and is being rolled out in Kumasi, Koforidua and Takoradi urban centres. This is to enable consumers access to foodstuffs at affordable prices.
Chairperson, agriculture will continue to remain a top priority of my government. The massive investments made in the sector attest to this fact. The positive narrative about Government’s support to the agriculture sector is that, unlike several other countries, Ghana is better prepared, and has demonstrated resilience to the current adversities threatening to destabilise our food systems. This has been possible because of the sound, pragmatic policies and programmes rolled out at the inception of my stewardship.
Our flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ), with its focus on improving farm productivity, through the use of technology on farms, has succeeded in increasing our food security, and opened up new opportunities for diversifying our agricultural exports by promoting six (6) tree crops for future substantial foreign exchange earnings. In 2016, Government inherited production levels of 1.7 million metric tonnes of maize and six hundred and sixty-five thousand metric tons of rice (665,000). Under the PFJ, maize production reached 3.4 million tonnes by 2021 and rice to 1.2 million metric tonnes. The credit must go to our gallant farmers, fishers and value chain actors who embraced the PFJ policies, and leveraged the opportunities created by the enabling environment for agricultural development.
By design, PFJ has targeted other sectors under agriculture with promising results. Under its Rearing for Food Jobs module, some one hundred and thirty-four thousand, four hundred (134,400) birds and small ruminants were distributed to one thousand, two hundred and fifty-four (1,254) beneficiaries in 2022 alone. In addition, nine hundred thousand (900,000) broiler day old chicks (chicken), together with nine hundred metric tons of feed and vaccines, have been contracted out for supply to farmers next year.
Still under the livestock sector, Government has released GH¢15.6 million as payment of compensation to two hundred and eighty (280) farms affected by the highly pathogenic Avian Influenza. There is also support for disease surveillance, public awareness creation, capacity building and the procurement of motorbikes for operational activities to enhance early detection, prevention and disease management. As part of institutional strengthening for the Veterinary Services Directorate, five hundred and fifty (550) veterinary officers and allied staff have been recruited this year alone.
Chairperson, the achievements of my government include the promotion of selected tree crops to diversify export earnings from the sector. For more than a century, Ghana has relied heavily on cocoa for foreign exchange earnings, whilst the potential for several other tree crops remains untapped. By an Act of Parliament, the Tree Crop Development Authority was established in 2020, to coordinate and promote the development of six tree crops, namely cashew, rubber, oil palm, coconut, mango and shea. At maturity, these selected crops will have the combined potential of generating annually an additional twelve billion dollars ($12 billion) to supplement the annual two billion dollars ($2 billion) from cocoa.
Since the launch of the Tree Crop Development programme in 2018, several nurseries have been established with the participation of private sector. The Ministry, through the Tree Crops Development Authority (TCDA), facilitated the provision of 2.7 million improved seedlings to some eleven thousand, one hundred (11,100) farmers during 2022 cropping season. I commend the District Assemblies for their participation in this effort, and I continue to urge our chiefs, land owners and prospective investors to leverage the opportunities created in the tree crop sub-sector.
Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and other partners have facilitated the smooth introduction and enhancement of major interventions such as the National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme, Hand Pollination Programme, Mass Pruning Exercise, Cocoa Diseases and Pests Control Programme, the Subsidised Fertilizer Distribution Programme, amongst others.
I have been reliably informed that, two years after we re-launched the National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme in the Western North Region, a total farm area of fifty-six thousand, three hundred and forty-three (56,343) hectares have been fully treated across the cocoa growing regions, as of 30th September 2022. 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, have returned, and are active again in the cocoa business.
It is important to underscore that these interventions brought back smiles on the faces of our cherished farmers, and also provided employment to some twenty-seven thousand (27,000) youth in scheme areas, that is one thousand, three hundred and sixty-one (1,361) as technical assistants; one thousand, eight hundred and forty-five (1,845) as disease spotters; and twenty-three thousand, nine hundred and thirteen (23,913) as farm hands.
Chairperson, in 2019, Government began the implementation of the Cocoa Management System (CMS) to help establish a credible database on Ghana’s cocoa. The integrated cocoa farmer database, which includes the development of a software data system, a census of all cocoa farmers in Ghana as well as mapping of all farms, will ensure, for the first time, the availability of accurate information on land size, geographic locations, population and record of cocoa farmers and farms in Ghana.
I am happy to announce, again, that the CMS is ready, setting in motion the processes of rolling out fully the much-anticipated cocoa farmers pension scheme. The mandatory pension scheme, which takes effect in the current 2022/23 crop season, will provide a decent pension for cocoa farmers after a minimum of five (5) years contribution.
It is important to mention that that the Living Income Differential (LID) pricing mechanism, being spearheaded by Cote d’ Ivoire and Ghana, the two biggest global producers of cocoa, through the Cote d’ Ivoire-Ghana Cocoa Initiative, is progressing despite seeming obstacles from some of our international trading partners. I want to assure our farmers that everything possible is being done to see to the full implementation of the scheme to cushion them against price volatility, and also guarantee sustainable livelihoods for them.
Fellow Ghanaians, the sustainability of the cocoa sector is contingent also on how effectively we are able to fight the devasting effects of the illegal mining menace. All of us, farmers and citizens, have a collective responsibility to bring this environmental canker to a halt if we do not want to ruin the inheritance our forefathers bequeathed us.
Other interventions implemented by my government, which are critical for accelerated development of the country, include the following:
A. Greenhouse Training Centres
Three greenhouse training centres, with attached commercial units at Dawhenya, Akumadan and Bawjiase for training youth in high-quality vegetable production, have been constructed. These vegetables are sold to high end shops such as Palace Mall, Shoprite, Starbite, KFC and Burger King in Tema, Accra and Kumasi. To date some five hundred and thirty-seven (537) youth have been trained, with three hundred and forty (340) of them having received internship training in Israel.
Since 2017, substantial investments have been directed to the construction and rehabilitation of twelve (12) irrigation schemes for which six (6) are ninety percent (90%) complete, five are between forty five percent (45%) to seventy percent (70%) complete, and Pwalugu dam currently at five percent (5%) completion. Together, these irrigation projects will make available thirty-one thousand, four hundred and fifteen (31,415) hectares of land for all year-round crop production when completed.
Measures taken by Government to address other major marketing problems in the agriculture sector include construction of eighty (80) warehouses of one thousand metric ton (1,000MT) capacity each for food storage, and to reduce post-harvest losses. Sixty-five (65) of eighty (80) have been fully completed, handed over and currently in use. The remaining are all at advanced stages of completion, ranging from seventy percent (70%) to ninety percent (90%).
To accelerate the process of agricultural modernization, my government, through various bilateral arrangements, has imported assorted agricultural machinery including tractors, power tillers, planters, threshers, combine harvesters and hand-held equipment for smallholder farmers at a total value of sixty-seven million United States dollars ($67 million). These farm equipment and machinery are being sold at subsidised rates to farmers and other investors. Currently, I am happy to report that processes have been concluded towards the establishment of a Tractor Assembly Plant in Ghana. This will go a long way to reduce cost of tractors, improve access to tractor parts and create jobs.
E. Agriculture Financing
To promote and increase investment in agriculture, Government established the Ghana Incentive Based Risk Sharing Agricultural Lending Scheme (GIRSAL) in 2018. A little more than three years on, GIRSAL has provided some three hundred and forty-seven million cedis (GH¢347 million) of guarantees, covering loans of some seven hundred and twelve million cedis (GH¢712 million) to some one hundred (100) agribusinesses.
These businesses are engaged in sale of agricultural inputs, direct production, aggregation, processing, marketing and exports. The guarantees have contributed to lower interest rates for borrowers. To boost further financing for agribusinesses, Government has established the Development Bank of Ghana, capitalised, initially, at seven hundred and fifty million euros (€750 million), which will prioritise agriculture in its activities.
F. Ghana Cares
Under the Cares Obaatampa programme, provision has also been made to enhance access to affordable financing for agribusinesses. A fifty percent (50%) interest rate subsidy is provided to agribusinesses in selected value chains, namely rice, maize, soya bean, tomato, and poultry. This complements the Outgrower and Value Chain Fund, which was established eleven (11) years ago to provide medium to long-term financing at significantly reduced interest rates. Under the Savanah Investment Project, two million dollars ($2 million) is also earmarked to provide credit to poultry value chain actors, especially those in processing.
G. YouStart programme
Government has launched the YouStart programme to provide training, entrepreneurial skills and financial support to entrepreneurial youth within the age bracket of 18 to 40 years, to help them start, build and grow their businesses. The YouStart will be a very important vehicle for equipping the youth to enter into agro-based businesses such as input distribution, marketing and value addition, leveraging on digital technology. I use the opportunity to encourage the District Assemblies and faith-based organizations to support the youth to take advantage of the programme.
Chairperson, the overwhelming evidence points to an impressive performance of Government in pursuit of its agricultural modernisation and transformation agenda. From an average of 3.8% in the 5-year period from 2012 to 2016, average annual growth nearly doubled to 6.3% in the period 2017 to 2021.
In the most recent years, the sector growth increased strongly from 4.7% in 2019 to 7.4% in 2020 and 8.4% in 2021 – the highest annual performance in the Fourth Republic. This sterling performance compares with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme’s (CAADP) benchmark target of 6% growth of agriculture for the attainment of national food security. Ironically, the highest growth rates posted were in 2020 and 2021 when the COVID-19 Pandemic and other negative forces, such as climate change and outbreak of diseases, were impacting the sector.
Going forward, Government will deepen investments in these areas, and build on the achievements so far through additional interventions.
Measures to Promote Import Substitution
As part of measures to ameliorate the current economic difficulties, I have already outlined policy measures to curtail the imports of some food commodities, for which we have comparative advantage. We will use the opportunity of this crisis to accelerate the agriculture modernisation and transformation agenda.
This effort will require strong intersectoral coordination at all levels, and effective engagement and collaboration with the private sector and all other stakeholders in the agriculture ecosystem. Consequently, institutions such as the TCDA and pipeline strategic institutions, like the Grains Development Authority, will be strengthened and supported to deliver effectively on their strategic mandate. We will also co-ordinate effectively with our foreign partners, leveraging their technical and financial resources to support this effort.
Grains Development Authority
Ghana has an untapped potential for grain production that can be exploited to feed the West Africa Region and beyond. This is evident in the loads of grains, such as maize, rice and soya, exported to neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast in the last three years.
To unlock the potential of the grain industry, a Bill is before Parliament requesting for approval to amend the erstwhile Grain Development Authority Act, 1970 (Act 234) to provide for the establishment of a body corporate to regulate, promote and coordinate development of the grain industry. The Authority, with private sector participation, will coordinate actors in the grain industry to achieve higher productivity, gain market access and increase value addition. This effort will also maximize the benefits from the grain sector through effective regulation.
The Fisheries and Aquaculture sector is an essential component of our nation’s economic development, providing employment to some three million people. Promoting value addition in the fisheries sector will not only ensure that Ghanaians have access to different fish products, but will also help protect the investment of actors in the value chain, improving exports, and creating additional job opportunities.
Government will continue to implement sustainable fisheries management measures to help conserve the dwindling marine fisheries resources and sustain the sector for future generations. The development of the aquaculture industry will also continue to receive Government support, as part of efforts to reduce our dependence on our marine fisheries resources.
I am happy to announce that Cabinet has granted three (3) key approvals to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development for (i) the automation of premix fuel distribution at landing beaches, (ii) the implementation of a new National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy, and (iii) the preparation of a new Fisheries Act to replace the current Act 625. These approvals are important for the sustainable management of marine fisheries resources and development of aquaculture.
The Ministry is also at an advanced stage with regards to the implementation of Cabinet’s decision for the acquisition of one (1) Research Vessel and four (4) Patrol Boats for the fisheries sector. The Research Vessel would facilitate regular fisheries research and stock assessment that would enhance data availability for science-based fisheries management, whilst the Patrol Boats will enhance the enforcement capacity to curb the pervasive incidence of illegal and unregulated fishing and related activities in our territorial waters.
To our artisanal fishers, I say I am also aware of the challenges regarding the distribution and sale of premix fuel to artisanal fishers. To address this, premix distribution activities at landing beaches will be automated by the close of December 2023. The first three (3) of the pilot phase is almost completed at Elmina, and would be commissioned in January 2023. Government is engaged in discussions with Bulk Distribution Companies to address supply challenges with regards to premix.
Chairperson, it is fairly obvious that a lot has been achieved in the sector, with many more projects and initiatives in the pipeline. At full maturity, these interventions will help consolidate the gains already made, strengthen the resilience of Ghana’s food system, and ensure sustainable food security.
Before I conclude, fellow Ghanaians, I want to point out again that our nation finds itself in considerable economic difficulties. It is important, therefore, that we put in place the relevant measures to address the hydra-headed economic challenges confronting us.
The 2023 Budget presented to Parliament by the Minister for Finance seeks to address these economic challenges through a number of very difficult, but necessary measures. These measures include a debt operation to address our fiscal and debt sustainability concerns.
Debt operations alone will not be enough to address the debt sustainability concerns. It is for this reason that we are complementing the debt operations with fiscal adjustments, through improvement in revenue collection and expenditure rationalisation measures, to promote debt and fiscal sustainability. This is why the Minister for Finance outlined a number of revenue and expenditure measures for the consideration and approval of Parliament.
These revenue measures include a proposed increase in VAT rate by 2.5%, the review of the e-Levy rate from 1.5 percent to 1 percent and removal of the one hundred cedi (GH¢100) threshold; removal of selected VAT exemptions; implementation of the VAT e-invoicing system; revision of selected excise taxes; complete removal of discount on benchmark values; implementation of the unified property rate collection; and review of the National Fiscal Stabilisation Levy (NFSL) to include all entities which are critical in supporting the fiscal consolidation process.
The fiscal adjustment envisaged is not only on the revenue side, but also on the expenditure side. Government is proposing significant expenditure rationalization measures, including a lowering of the cap on transfers to earmarked funds from 25 percent to 17.5 percent; review of Government flagship programmes to reflect relevance, promote efficiency, and ensure value for money; continue with the thirty percent (30%) cut in the salaries of the President, Vice President, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MMDCEs, and political office holders including those in state-owned enterprises; manage public sector wage negotiations and hiring within budgetary constraints; and integrate the public procurement approval processes with GIFMIS and budget allocation.
There are other key public expenditure measures which seek to demonstrate government’s burden sharing in addressing the economic challenges facing us. These measures, which range from reducing fuel allocation, the size of convoys, the suspension of the creation of new government agencies, to a ban on the use of V8 vehicles, are expected to reduce spending towards fiscal sustainability.
Fellow Ghanaians, I am optimistic that all these fiscal measures, together with the debt operations and the implementation of key structural reforms to eliminate the structural bottlenecks in the economy outlined in the 2023 Budget, will go a long way to address the economic challenges.
I call on all Ghanaians, in these difficult times, to support these fiscal measures that the Government has proposed for approval by Parliament, to enable us achieve the goal of restoring macroeconomic stability and promoting inclusive growth, whilst protecting the poor. I would like to use this occasion to make a special appeal to Organised Labour, which has proved to be a stalwart, principled ally of my government in our collective efforts, over these last six (6) years, to build a strong Ghanaian economy, to continue its dialogue with its Social Partners to find rapidly an acceptable solution to the ongoing salary negotiations, a solution which is realistic and fair.
Finally, I want to end with a request on each one of us. Our economy suffers from another structural weakness, which we must address with urgency. Ghana has the second largest economy in West Africa, but with the lowest tax-to-GDP ratio of some twelve percent (12%), within the context of an average of eighteen percent (18%) in the ECOWAS Region.
It is absolutely essential for our future, if we are to realise our goal of a Ghana Beyond Aid, that we make rapid strides to meet the eighteen percent (18%) and even higher target, in order to strengthen our self-reliance and our capacity to finance our own development. It is in this light that I am calling strongly for support for the measures that the Minister for Finance outlined in the budget proposals, which will enhance significantly revenue mobilisation. It should be obvious to all of us by now that we can only rely on ourselves to build the Ghana we want.
I wish you a happy and memorable Farmers’ Day celebration. Me ma mo afrihyia pa, and congratulations to all award winners, especially the National Best Farmer and the National Best Fisher Person!!
May God bless our farmers and fisherfolk, and us all, and may God bless our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
I thank you for your attention.