Mills lauds farmers

…for their contribution to economy

From Isaac Akwetey-Okunor, Somanya

Mr. John Alokodongo, Upper East Regional Best Farmer, 2010, receiving his certificate from Mr. Mark Woyongo, Upper East Regional Minister President Mills has highly commended cocoa and livestock farmers in the country for contributing $1.86 billion and $48.12 million respectively, in foreign exchange to the economy last year.

The President, who was speaking at the National Farmers Day held at Somanya in the Eastern Region over the weekend on the theme “Grow More Food,” re-affirmed his commitment and determination to make the agriculture sector more attractive.

President Mills was however, quick to add that though the farmers performed well, the country still spent substantial amounts of money to import food that could have been produced locally.

“I am informed that in 2009, about US$500 million of our hard-earned foreign exchange was spent on the importation of rice. This colossal amount went to support foreign farmers and their economies at the expense of our own job-creating opportunities,” he lamented.

Touching on the recent budget, President Mills said the duties imposed on selected food items in the 2011 budget were meant to address this gross imbalance.

He disclosed that the government was subsidising the 2010 farming season with 100,000 metric tonnes of fertilizers at an estimated cost of about GH¢32 million, as well as establishing about 80 agriculture mechanisation centers under the Public Private Partnership arrangement at the district level to increase the accessibility of mechanised services to the majority of farmers who cannot afford to procure and own their mechanised facilities.

Meanwhile, 60 year old Benjamin Adjetey Adjei, a resident  of Oyibi, a farming community in the Greater Accra Region, was crowned the National Best Farmer, and took away a three bedroom house, trip to UK, Personal Accident Cover, DSTV, GH¢5,000 cash, GH¢4,000 Life Insurance Policy.

Mr. Maxwell Akadem of the Upper East Region, and Mr. Eric Midorse of Adoklu in the Affram Plains in the Kwahu South District of the Eastern Region, were adjudged 2nd and 3rd respectively.

They took home a tractor and a double cabin pick-up vehicle donated by Stanbic Bank at a cost of GH¢45,000.

Upper East farmers

Meanwhile, William N-lanjerborr also reports from Bolgatanga that farmers in the Upper East Region have reiterated the need for the government and its partners to construct more dams and give them more subsidies to boost dry season farming in the area.

The farmers, who made the call during the 26th edition of the Farmers Day celebration held at the Jubilee Park in Bolgatanga last Friday, reminded President Mills to fulfill his campaign promise of making farming lucrative by providing an enabling environment, and the necessary support for farmers to produce enough for the nation and for export.

Speaking on behalf of the farmers, Mr. John Alokodongo, also a farmer, said the region had started experiencing the dry season, and that many more farmers would have gone into dry season farming if there were enough irrigation dams in their various districts.

Mr. Alokodongo, who was adjudged the National Best in 1996, also called on the government to critically look at the operations of the Northern Star Tomato Factory (NSTF) at Pwalugu, which was still not capable of giving tomato farmers in the region the assurance they need to enable them go into large scale cultivation of the perishable vegetable.

Another serious worry of the farmers in the region was the fast deteriorating state of the defunct meat factory at Zuarungu in Bolgatanga.

While the factory is left to deteriorate, livestock farmers in the region continue to risk spending so much to transport their livestock to the south to sell, just for meager benefits.

They sometimes lose some of the animals on the journey.

Mr. Alokodongo and his colleague farmers warned that if things remain the way they are, “our food market here in Ghana will always benefit the European and American farmers, who enjoy subsidies from their governments. We are also looking forward to the day we will have mechanization centers dotted all over the region, to make land preparation and farming in general, less cumbersome in the region.”

He called for a conscious plan to ensure that the Fumbisi Valley in the Builsa District becomes very useful to the region and nation at large, in the area of rice cultivation.
His call stemmed from the fact that the present level of farming in the valley was far below the viability of the land.

The celebration, which was under the theme; “Let us grow more food,” saw a 33-year-old farmer from the Bawku Municipality, Martin Ariku Akudugu, taking home a thrasher, a bullock rigger, a radio set, four bags of fertiliser, fifty bottles of agro-chemicals and a knapsack sprayer, as well as a bicycle, as the Upper East Regional Best Farmer for the year 2010.

Seventeen other regional award winners also took home bicycles, wellington boots, pieces of cloth, and radio sets among other items. All the winners received certificates alongside the awards.

Bolgatanga MCE

The Bolgatanga Municipal Chief Executive, Mr. Epsona Ayamga, said the Assembly was implementing some programmes in the agriculture sector, including the Block Farming Project, under which 220 male and 77 female farmers had been sponsored to cultivate 714 acres of major staples such as rice, sorghum and soya beans.

There is also a Livestock Credit In Kind Project, under which 680 sheep and 120 goats have been given out to 80 beneficiaries in the Municipality, while11 valleys have been earmarked for future development under the Rice Sector Support Project.

The Upper East Regional Minister, Mr. Mark Woyongo, said in order to provide the needed funds to operationalise its agricultural policy, which seeks to ensure high productivity, and to make farming lucrative, the government has tasked the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to adopt the “Ghana Medium Term Agricultural Sector Investment Plan” for the period 2009-2015.

According to the Minister, this plan falls in line with Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II), as well as the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy, and the African Agricultural Development Programme, for which reason all stakeholders at the national and regional levels, as well as international partners, had all signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Ghana, and had committed themselves to supporting this investment plan.

Mr. Woyongo said the government, upon realising that the continuous use of the traditional farming method and tools had over the years contributed to low productivity in the agriculture sector in the region and most parts of the country, continues to import and sell a number of tractors at subsidised prices in the region, through the Agric Mechanization Services Centers, to provide accessible and affordable tractor service to farmers in the region.

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