Akufo-Addo to launch Planting for Exports and Rural Development 2019 - Agric Minister
Barring any unexpected circumstances, government will implement the Planting for Exports and Rural Development (PERD) initiative to boost rural economy and reduce the reliance on cocoa.
The initiative complements the existing Planting for Food and Jobs programme that was kickstarted by the government in 2017 to increase local production of imported produce and create jobs in the process.
Announcing the updates to a gathering at the maiden Ghana Coffee Conference in Accra on Friday, Agriculture Minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto intimated that this was in fulfilment of a campaign promise by President AKufo-Addo who pledged to development other crops with potential to rake in revenue to the country.
Dr Afriyie Akoto stressed that government has identified six tree crops that Ghana can take advantage of to be leading producers within the next decade with the right measures.
Cotton, Coffee, Oil palm, Rubber, Mango, Coconut and Cashew are the six tree crops that will receive government's attention under the initiative which has been decentralised and is being supervised by local authorities especially District Chief Executives.
"We have started that in earnest at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development who now has the responsibility of implementing our agricultural policies from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture because of the decentralisation policy of the government. The District Directors of Agriculture now reports to the District Chief Executives, that is the President's representatives at the districts" he recounted.
He continued, "We have been working closely with them and very quietly for the past year we have been raising seedlings in their millions of these six crops...We have been raising these seedlings we have been giving targets to the DCEs to raise these seedlings of the six crops that I mentioned to you and already the project is so successful that some of the DCEs have even started distributing these seedlings to farmers for free. So we are well ahead of the targets and next year the President of the Republic is going to launch this programme under Planting for Food and Jobs. We are christening it Planting for Exports and Rural Development."
Creation of Boards and Authorities
The Agric Minister boasted that this initiative is a deliberate attempt to put the spotlight on Coffee, which is expected to be a key crop for the country in the near future, and other non-traditional crops.
He bemoaned the inability of governments over the years to develop the Coffee potential of the country highlighting the strides neighbouring Ivory Coast has made over the years in development of the crop.
However, he explained that despite government's keen interest in developing the six non-traditional crops, it was not prudent to create separate marketing boards or authorities to have oversight responsibility for their development.
Sector Minister disclosed that all things being equal he has readied a document for cabinet's consideration.
The document he detailed provides for the establishment of a common marketing board to oversee the growth of the selected 6 tree crops.
"Along with this, we are also thinking about the marketing arrangements. We cannot have a marketing board for every crop under the sun. So we are going for the francophone model of putting all these crops under one authority. As I speak to you, I have done a draft cabinet memorandum to go to government for final approval to come to parliament so that it becomes statutory" the Minister asserted.
64, 000 beneficiaries so far
According to the Deputy Minister of Local Government in charge of Rural Economy and Agriculture, Colins Ntim 64, 000 farmers have so far benefitted from the pilot stage of the programme with the number expected to shoot up in 2019.
Colins Ntim observed that the under the programme some districts were validated for specific crops and found to be suitable for the growth of those crops. He gave the breakdown as "96 districts for cashew, 56 districts for Coffee, 30 districts for Mango, 20 districts for Coconuts, 14 districts for Shea, 30 districts for Oil palm and Citrus each"
About 9 million seedlings have so far been distributed for the initiative and the number according to the deputy Minister is expected to increase to 26 million for the 2019 farming season.
Addressing the conference, President of the Coffee Federation of Ghana, Chief Nat Ebo Nsarko, commended the government for showing appreciable level of political will towards the development of Coffee.
Nat Ebo Nsarko found it difficult to believe that Ghana has failed to develop its Coffee potential to the level of Cocoa recording a GDP contribution of a paltry 0.12% in 2015.
With the increasing intake of Coffee globally, Coffee Federation of Ghana President hints that Ghana may lose out on millions of cedis if it fails to take advantage of the growing market.
On their part, the Federation has established a Model Farm Coffee Project aimed at providing lucurative livelihood for Ghanaian youth, "increase Ghana's export capacity, utilise arable farmlards, reduce unemployment, increase income and reduce poverty."