A FORMER national best farmer, Alhaji Abdul Salam Akate, has called on the government to repackage agriculture to make it attractive to the youth if the nation is anxious to achieve food sufficiency.
He said Ghanaian farmers in their present state were incapable of producing enough food to meet national demands, and if the status quo prevailed, the nation would continue to import to meet the shortfall.
According to Alhaji Akate, the current state of agriculture was not attractive enough to the youth who were expected to take over from the ageing farmers.
“There is, therefore, the urgent need for the government to provide substantial interventions and support for farmers to enable them to deliver,” he said.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Kumasi on a wide range of issues within the agricultural sector, Alhaji Akate, who won the 2007 national best farmer, suggested to the government to help create mega-farmers in the country as in the case of the advanced countries.
He stated that if the country was able to create at least five of such farmers who would be engaged in large-scale farming, the nation would be on the way to meet its food needs, and export in large quantities.
“We don’t need many people to farm to feed the nation. With the right approach, few people can do that work and food will be cheaper and we can also export,” Alhaji Akate said.
The former national best farmer, who maintained that agriculture was among the best businesses in the world, said it was unacceptable for Ghana to continue to import rice and maize when all the opportunities were available to cultivate such cereals with the right approach.
Ghana’s rice import bill hit a staggering $600 million in 2009 and there are no immediate indications that the trend will change for the better in the near future.
Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) figures reveal that while the estimated national rice consumption stands at 561,400 metric tonnes per year, rice produced locally is 107,900 metric tonnes, leaving a gap of 453,500 metric tonnes, which have to be imported.
Insisting that farmers were not asking for free money from the government to develop their businesses, Alhaji Akate said, “But considering the fact that interest on loans from the banks for instance remains very high, it tells you that farmers will not be in the position to go for such loans looking at the risks associated with the farming business.”
He, therefore, called on the government to find ways of providing concessionary loans for farmers to enable them to expand their businesses for the benefit of the nation.
Alhaji Akate maintained that Ghana had large tracts of land for maize production but it was regrettable that the country still imported maize for both human consumption and to feed the poultry industry.
It is a good sign that four high-yielding seed maize varieties imported from the US have recently been introduced into the country for distribution to maize farmers throughout the country as part of the Millennium Development Authority’s (MiDA) programme to increase maize production for local consumption and for export.
The seed maize, known as “Pioneer maize”, is drought resistant and could yield 42 bags per acre.
Alhaji Akate also stressed the need for subsidies to be introduced to the agricultural sector, saying if the so-called advanced nations were doing it, Ghana could not afford to remain indeferrent.
He described the National Farmers Day as one of the best things to happen to agricultural development in the country.
According to him, the fact that the awards have been devoid of political influence over the years has made it win international respect.
Alhaji Akate stated that winning the award in 2007 gingered him to increase production “so I can say that the awards scheme is very good”.