The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) is sourcing funding and support from Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), an independ­ent U.S. government agency, to strengthen Ghana?s agricultural value chain.

The funds will be used to build two new rice mills, 14 modem warehouses, four markets with cold storage facil­ities, two abattoirs and milk processing facilities under the government?s Medium Term Agricultural Sector Investment Plan (2011-2015).

At the opening of ?the Fourth National Food and Agriculture Show (FAGRO) in Accra yesterday, President John Dramani Mahama, in a speech read on his behalf by the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, said the government had made giant strides in the agricultural sector.

Apart from increased food production, he said, the government had introduced interventions such as Youth in Agriculture, the Expanded Fertiliser Subsidy and Irrigation Development programmes.

Unfortunately, he said, some critics had refused to acknowledge the fact that the government had increased food production significantly since it came to power in 2009.

Started in 2009, FAGRO has become a unique plat­form for farmers and participants to network, form strate­gic partnerships and learn modem techniques of agricul­tural marketing.    .

On the theme: ?Linking farmers to the appropriate market: A value chain process?, activities that will feature prominently on the three-day programme include daily exhibitions, free daily seminars, business-to-business meetings with Brazilian companies and a GIZ-sponsored drama.

The rest are a book launch on national agricultural policies, official launch of Ghana?s Farmers? Market, and an international food fair that will blend history and fies­ta to create a unique mix of African, Asian and European cuisines.

This year?s event has attracted exhibitors from coun­tries such as Spain, Israel, Nigeria, Brazil, Burkina Faso and the United States of America.

Critics of the government have on several occasions lashed out at the government for the poor performance of the agricultural sector which recorded a negative growth last year.

Factors responsible for such downturn in the agricul­ture sector included the logging sector component of the agricultural sector which declined by 14 per cent, while the fisheries sub-sector also recorded a negative growth of 8.7 per cent.

On that score, President Mahama entreated the country?s politicians and social commentators to be wary and mindful of the fact that distortions and misrepresentation of the state of Ghana?s economy would go a long way to undermine investor confidence.

?It is a pity that self-styled critics of the government blatantly refuse to see what is obvious in this context and continue to go along the path Of ignorance, misinforma­tion and deliberate distortion of the facts and figures,? the President said.

Lending credence to his assertion, the President said rice production in the country had increased from 181,000 metric tonnes of milled rice in 2008 to 295,000 metric tonnes in 2010and 278,000 metric tonnes in 2011 and maize from 1.5 million metric tonnes in 2008 to 1.9 mil­lion metric tonnes in 2012.

Cassava production increased from 11.4 million metric tonnes in 2008 to 14.2 metric tonnes in 2011; yams from 4.9 million metric tonnes in 2008 to 5.9 million metric tonnes in 2009; plantain was 3.6 million metric tonnes in 20ll from 3.3 million metric tonnes in 2008.

Meat production increased by 17 per cent from 100,395 metric tonnes in 2008 to 118,504 metric tonnes in 2011 while fish production increased by 1.3 per cent from 416,552 metric tonnes in 2008 to 421,898 metric tonnes in 2011.

President Mahama said ?the serious concern should be, and is, how to process, add value to and extend the shelf life of the raw food items?.

He observed that enhanced agricultural sector per­formance offered a crucial opportunity for effective investment in the country?s social and economic develop­ment.

?Agriculture plays such an emphatic role in Ghana?s rural life and population; growth in this sector is at least twice as effective in boosting incomes compared to growth in non-agricultural sectors including oil and gas sectors,? he said.

He commended organisers of FAGRO for their per­formance, saying that the growing number of foreign exhibitors was a clear manifestation of the enabling envi­ronment for doing business in the country as attested to by various international ranking agencies.

The Greater Accra Regional Minister, Nii Laryea Afotey Agbo, observed that, among other things, climate change and its impact had thrown new challenges to the country?s agriculture. He therefore, urged Ghanaian farmers to embrace technology to enhance productivity.

?There are people who question the efficacy of some of these technologies. My view is that closing our eyes to the latest developments in the world will be counterpro­ductive given the size of our population and food needs,? the regional minister said.

The Managing Director of the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB), Mr Stephen Kpordzih, said the bank as part of its commitment to the development of agriculture in Ghana had maintained a discriminatory pricing policy in favour of agriculture by ensuring that agriculture continued to attract the lowest interest rates despite the perceived high risk associated with the sector.

Source: Daily Graphic

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