Agriculture Minister assures nation of food security
Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, has assured the nation of food security, saying, “there’s no question that Ghana is more than food secured.”
Making a presentation on the floor of Parliament in Accra on Wednesday, the Minister said government’s investment towards national food security in the past five years was unparalleled in the history of Ghana.
He gave the assurance that the solid foundations laid by the government would ensure food availability, accessibility, utilisation and stability.
Dr Afriyie Akoto was responding to an urgent question by Mr Desmond De-Graft Paitoo, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Gomoa East, who wanted to know measures the Ministry had adopted to improve on food security for Ghanaians.
The Minister said the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) established four pillars of food security: availability, accessibility, utilisation and stability.
Using these pillars as the basis for assessing the status of Ghana’s food security, there was no question that the country was more than food secured.
He said since the role-out of the Government’s flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) in April, 2017, data and physical evidence attested to the consistent and enhanced food security.
“At the very onset, the PFJ Campaign signaled a very high premium placed on food security by the government. This explains why the food crop module for the PFJ was the first to be out-doored.”
Strategically, the module was targeted at addressing the issue of low productivity and growth that had characterised the food sector, he said.
Dr Akoto said an objective diagnosis of the sector revealed that yields of staples such as maize and root tuber was between 40 and 45 per cent of potential yields in 2016.
Equally distressing was the fact that only 11 to 15 per cent of food crop farmers used improved seeds and fertilizers; and the fertilizer application was at the low – 8kg per hectare, which was compounded by poor extension service delivery due to a low extension farmer ratio of 1:1,908 farmers in 2016, compared to the FAO recommended ratio of 1:100.
“Mr Speaker, it was to address this problem that the Government introduced the Input Subsidy Programme for farmers in 2017 under food crops modules of Planting for Food and Jobs. The outcome of that intervention has been remarkable,” Dr Akoto said.
From an initial 202,000 plus farmers in 2017, a total of 1.65 million were currently participating in the PFJ Campaign and benefitting from subsidised inputs of improved seeds and fertilizers, which had accounted for increases in yields of staples since 2017 to date, he said.
“For the food crop sub-sector for 2016, the growth was 2.6 per cent, when the government took over, which had increased in 2017 to 7.2 per cent, and then in 2018 to 5.8 per cent, 2019 it was 5.3 per cent, in 2020 it went up to 8.6 per cent and 2021 it recorded 8.9 per cent compared to the national growth of the economy.”
The Minister said the national average yield of maize in 2016 was 1.7 metric tonnes per hectare but jumped to 4.0 metric tonnes per hectare in 2021.
He said he had just returned from a tour of some regions of the country and food prices in urban centres, especially in Accra, were high compared to what pertains in the rural areas.
He cited a tuber of yam going for GHS6.00 in Bamboi in the Oti Region and the same tuber went for GHS24.00 in Accra.
He said many attributed the high cost of food in the urban centres to the increase in fuel prices and the cost of transportation.
“Whereas this may be true to some extent, our analysis at the Ministry revealed that this was over exaggerated. Accordingly, Government and the Ministry is arranging to transport food from the production centres directly to Accra to provide food at reasonable prices to the public,” he said.