Business News Tue, 11 May 2021

Stronger integration of ECOWAS markets crucial - Bawumia

Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has tasked the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to take advantage of the strong linkages of their economies to build synergies in common areas of clear comparative advantage towards achieving strategic food security systems.

"Our plan to build a strategic food storage system for the sub-region is a step in the right direction towards addressing the dire situation of emerging hunger facing our people.

"In order to operationalize our objective, there is an urgent need for marching resources and financing mechanism," Dr Bawumia said.

Dr Bawumia gave the advice at the closing ceremony of the international conference on the West African Food Security Storage System in Accra.

The Vice President said the meeting was a giant step in ECOWAS' quest to provide food security especially for the vulnerable, and a good sign of being responsive to the needs of the people.

"The short to medium-term goal was to build capacity of the sub-region and insulate our system from external shocks and attain self-sufficiency," Dr Bawumia said.

He noted that the meeting aligned with the government of Ghana's efforts of revamping agriculture and harnessing her full potentials.

"For us in Ghana, the purpose of this conference vindicates our government's transformation agenda rolled out in 2017 for the agricultural sector.

"The agenda is a product of a comprehensive diagnosis of the agricultural sector and the vehicle for delivering on the agenda is government's flagship programme known as Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ).

"The key focus of the programme is to enhance productivity, scale up production of food commodities, promote value addition and build sustainable food security for the country," he stressed.

Vice-President Dr Bawumia pledged Ghana’s commitment to building a culture of emergency preparedness when it comes to national food security to attain self-sufficiency.

He added that food security continues to rank high on government's agenda, and pledged government’s full support in helping the sub-region build a strategic stock of food reserves to ensure food security in the region.

Dr Bawumia commended ECOWAS, through its Commission for Agriculture, Water Resources and Environment, for helping countries in the sub-region build a more robust and resilient food storage system to help tackle operational challenges.

He noted that the strategic objective of transforming Ghana's agriculture and attaining sustainable food security has been difficult due to challenges related to financing, floods, drought, pest and disease, climate change variabilities, and post-harvest losses.

"Admittedly, these challenges are common to countries in the sub-region, and this is the more reason for a concerted effort to strategise against the threats posed by these factors," he noted.

Dr Bawumia said the government would continue to prioritise agriculture to overcome these challenges as it seems the only way to salvage Ghana from rudimentary systems of production and ensure high yields and large-scale outputs of our food crops.

Dr Bawumia stated that Ghana had invested consistently and progressively through many complementary interventions including annual distribution of subsidized farm inputs, certified seeds and fertilizers.

Other interventions he mentioned were the development of agriculture infrastructure by way of warehouses, greenhouse technology villages, feeder roads and irrigation schemes.

He noted that the Ghana Commodity Exchange was a platform providing a link between buyers and sellers in the food and raw material value chain.

The Vice-President said the Planting for Exports and Rural Development (PERD) programme was one of five modules of the government's flagship programme for Planting for Food and Jobs.

Dr Bawumia said in four years of implementing the PFJ programme, impressive successes had been recorded such as an increase in farmer participation from 202,000 to 1,500,000 in 2020, the distribution of 14 million seedlings raised locally to 65,474 farmers to boost the production and exports of selected tree crops.

He said the construction of three greenhouse technology centres in different parts of the country to promote the production of high value vegetables for local consumption and exports, and construction of 80 warehouses under a one district one warehouse initiative, of which 60 of them were ready to be put into operation was all to ensure food security.

"In achieving our strategic objective of transforming Ghana's agriculture and attaining sustainable food security is not without challenges. Key among them are financing, floods, drought, pest and disease, climate change variabilities, and post-harvest losses.

"Admittedly these challenges are common to countries in the sub region, some because of the shared geography and shared environment. And this is the more reason for a concerted effort to strategize against the threats posed by these factors" Dr Bawumia said.

Statistics over the past seven years suggests that people facing food insecurity in the sub region has exploded from two million to 27 million as at the end of the last cropping season.

The Vice President said the aforementioned statistics were unacceptable especially when agriculture offers the best hope of liberating the economies of the sub-region from the chronic malaise that had characterized them over the years.

"We all know that our countries are endowed with virtually all the resources needed to propel economic development," he said.

Vice President Bawumia thus, called for immediate action to tackle food insecurity to ensure sustainable development in the subregion.

The meeting started from April 28 to May 10, attracted ministers in charge of Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources from 15 West African countries as well as donor partners to deliberate on measures to achieve regional food security.

It was organized by the Economic Community of West African Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) Donor Group, with the key objective of implementing the agricultural component of NEPAD in West Africa.

The meeting called for an action to share country experiences, knowledge and building consensus on the way forward, to build strategic stock reserves in the sub-region.
Source: thefinderonline.com