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Parliament urges increased agricultural sector support

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Parliament1Parliament on Tuesday bemoaned the inadequacy of investment in the country’s agricultural sector, fearing the development could lead to food insecurity in Ghana.

Members have thus urged government to put in the necessary emergency interventions to enable increased food crop production to nip the threat of food crisis in the bud.

The Members expressed these sentiments in contributions to a debate on the floor of the House on the Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Performance Audit Report of the Auditor-General on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s (MOFA) support to farmers to increase food production.

The Lawmakers said it was essential that government provided the MOFA with adequate resources to enable the Ministry to enhance the capacity of farmers in modern agricultural practices, improve existing irrigation facilities and build additional infrastructure to increase food production.

The report of the Public Accounts Committee, covering the period between 2011 and 2013, observed that the MOFA delayed the distribution of improved seeds and fertilizer to farmers.

The report, however, noted that MOFA officials explained that the late distribution of seeds and fertilizer “is relative, due to the different agro-ecological zones and the two cropping seasons”.

According to the report, the explanation notwithstanding, the principal issue contributing to the late distribution of fertilizer is the type of subsidy being managed by MOFA.

The Ministry is currently managing a subsidy programme, under which government is partnering the private sector to buy and distribute a defined volume of fertilizer, after which government reimburses the private sector.

The Committee is therefore of the opinion that if government is unable to roll out the fertiliser subsidy in any year, it could result in a situation where only a small section of farmers can apply fertilizer to their crops and thus affect production levels in that particular year.

It recommended that the Ministry of Finance should endeavour to release the needed funds to MOFA to enable it to reimburse companies on schedule for prompt supply of fertilizers.

The Ministry should ensure that subsidised fertilizers are supplied to farmers per the season of cropping in the northern and southern sectors of the country.

The Committee also observed that improved storage facilities such as metallic silos and Purdue Improved Crop Storage Bags should be provided to farmers, advising further that a mechanism should be put in place to mop up excess cereals to reduce post-harvest losses for food security.

On developed irrigable lands, the Committee observed that, the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy II (FASDEP II) meant to enhance the capacity of existing irrigation facilities from 30 per cent to 80 per cent, from 2007 to 2017, rather utilised only 59 per cent of existing 7,517 hectares of developed irrigable land.

According to the Auditor-General, 14 irrigation facilities in the Upper East, Northern, Brong Ahafo, Volta and Greater Accra Regions visited by the audit team were not working to full capacity because the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority had not rehabilitated most of the irrigation facilities over the years.

The Committee insisted that the Finance Ministry adhered to the provisions of the Maputo Declaration by ensuring that ten per cent of the national budget is ceded to agricultural sector.

Minority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu said the nations dwindling investment in agriculture would exact a toll on food production, with the sum effect being the impoverishment of the people.

He said government should take immediate steps to halt factors that are impeding effective land use for food production, including Galamsey operations, urging the state to give equal attention to agricultural development rather than concentrating on the new-found oil and gas resource.

Mr Amadu Seidu, MP for Yapei/Kusowgu called for improved mechanisms to tackle post-harvest loses, and also encourage the youth to venture into farming.

Source: GNA

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