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Members of Parliament, Tuesday, expressed the fear that if urgent intervention measures are not put in place to increase food production by the government, food shortage may soon hit the country.

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They have, therefore, urged the government to increase the pace of investment in the Agricultural sector, believing that is the best way to ensure food security.

They contended that it was important for the government to provide the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) with adequate funding mechanism to enable it resource farmers who are into mechanized farming to produce more.

That notwithstanding, they said existing irrigational facilities should be improved while additional infrastructure provided to increase food production.

Their sentiments were expressed on the floor of the House when contributing to a debate for the adoption of the Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Performance Audit Report of the Auditor-General on the Ministry of Food and Agriculture?s (MOFA) support to farmers to increase food production.

The Committee?s Report

The report of the Public Accounts Committee covering the period between 2011 and 2013, observed that the MOFA delayed the distribution of improved seeds and fertilizer to farmers.

The report however noted that MOFA officials explained that the late distribution of seeds and fertilizer ?is relative due to the different agro-ecological zones and the two cropping seasons?.

According to the report, the explanation notwithstanding, the principal issue contributing to the late distribution of fertilizer is the type of subsidy being managed by MOFA.

The Ministry is currently managing a subsidy programme under which government is partnering the private sector to buy and distribute a defined volume of fertilizer following which government reimburses the private sector.

The Committee is therefore of the opinion that if government is unable to roll out the fertiliser subsidy in any year, it could result in a situation where only a small section of farmers can apply fertilizer to their crops, a situation they said could affect production levels in that particular year.

It therefore recommended that the Ministry of Finance should endeavour to release the needed funds to MOFA to enable it reimburse companies on schedule for prompt supply of fertilizers.

The Ministry, the committee said, should further ensure that subsidized fertilizers are supplied to farmers per the season of cropping in the northern and southern sectors of the country.

The Committee also observed that improved storage facilities such as metallic silos and Purdue Improved Crop Storage Bags should be provided to farmers, advising further that a mechanism should be put in place to mop up excess cereals to reduce post-harvest losses for food security.

On use of developed irrigable lands, the Committee observed that the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy II (FASDEP II) meant to enhance the capacity of existing irrigation facilities from 30 percent to 80 percent from 2007 to 2017 rather utilised only 59 percent of existing 7,517 hectares of developed irrigable land.

According to the Auditor-General, 14 irrigation facilities in the upper East, Northern, Brong Ahafo, Volta and Greater Accra Regions visited by the audit team were not working to full capacity.

This was because the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority had not rehabilitated most of the irrigation facilities over the years.

The Committee insisted that the Finance Ministry adhered to the provisions of the Maputo Declaration by ensuring that ten percent of the national budget is ceded to the agricultural sector.

Minority Leader?s submission

The Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, in his contribution said low investment in agriculture would impact negatively on food production, with malnourishment being the resultant effect.

He said with the current situation in Ghana, it was important for the government to take immediate steps address challenges, including illegal mining, underpinning food production in the country.

He urged the government to give equal attention to agricultural development just like the other sectors of the economy.
Amadu Seidu?s remarks

MP for Yapei/Kusowgu, Amadu Seidu, commenting on the issue called on the government to institute measures to address post-harvest loses.

He also called on the government to encourage the youth to go into agriculture.

Source: Kasapafmonline.com

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