Some stakeholders in the agriculture sector have lauded the Planting for Export and Rural Development programme (PERD), launched by the government recently in the Central region.
They said the policy with a target to increase exports of tree crops was good if properly implemented to expectation.
In an interview with the General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), under the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), Mr Edward Kareweh, noted the huge gap between imports and exports in the country was a concern.
“Almost everything is imported. Therefore, any effort to produce what we consume here and for raw materials so that we can reduce our overdependence on imports is good,” he stated.
This was corroborated by the Executive Director of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), Ms Victoria Adongo, who said so far as the PERD was under the Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) programme was focused on exports of tree crops, and the latter on ensuring food sufficiency it was good.
She said the decentralised nature of the PERD, being implemented through a collaboration between the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development was also good because the focus was to develop the rural areas.
“It is the best thing. It will lead to development in those areas and encourage the youth to take up farming and other means of livelihoods and prevent them from migrating to the towns for non-existent jobs,” she stated.
They CSOs cautioned there should be deliberate efforts to continue to encourage more food crop production.
“The fear is that may be most farmers will go into the tree crop farming due to the challenges in food crop farming compared to tree crop,” she said.
The best antidote, she said would be to also concentrate on some food crops for exports, as was done last year with maize under the PFJ.
Mr Kareweh said beyond accepting the policy dynamics on the surface, was the need to understand why Ghanaian producers have not been unable to break through the export market.
“We are coming from a certain theory that these things will work but that theory doesn’t support it. Some programmes were never successful. One would have thought that they will take time to address the challenges manufacturing companies are facing before adding more to it, and even if they are going to add it should be at levels that are manageable,” he stated.
He said since the programme was also to provide a strong raw material base for industrialisation, the linkage between the PERD and the One District One Factory (1D1F) must be strong.
“One is not able to see the capacity of the 1DIF to pick up the production in the country. Specifically, how much in a year and for the next five years will IDIF pick from the market? These are things that will affect the programme negatively or positively of there is mismatch or an understatement of what the IDIF will be able to do as against what will be on the ground,” he said.
It is a five-year (2019- 2023) government initiative aimed transforming Ghana’s agriculture and is designed to focus on the development of selected export tree crops, namely cashew, coffee, oil palm, coconut, mango and rubber.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the inauguration of the PERD, said it will enhance the foreign exchange capacity of the economy.
The MOFA is targeting to raise 4,139 million seedlings of six selected tree crops in 191 districts, towards full implementation .
In five years, the programme is expected to make use of a total land size of 32,591 hectares.
The sector Minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, in a recent interview with the Daily Graphic the programme had targeted to raise 2.5 million cashew seedlings in 98 districts over 25,000 hectares of land.
He said one million seedlings of oil palm was expected to be raised in 30 districts, while 555,000 rubber seedlings would be grown in 10 districts, with 45,000 seedlings of coffee earmarked to be grown in four districts.
Furthermore, he said, 24,000 seedlings of coconut were to be raised for planting in 35 districts and 15,000 seedlings of shea in 14 districts.
In an interview, the National President of the Cashew Farmers Association of Ghana, Nana Adu-Baomponsem VI, said the government’s adoption of cashew as one of the tree crops for export was welcoming.
He recalled an intervention by the government that ended in 2009 went a long way to improve the cashew sub-sector but has since not seen any other major project.
“Cashew price is now down from eight cedis to two cedis fifty pesewas per kilo. They buy and stop buying at any time they like, and farmers are not comfortable the way we are being treated. We expect the establishment of the Tree Crop Development Authority (TCDA), will be able to address all the issues about cashew,” Nana, who is also the Adumhene of Wenchi in the Bono East Region said.
He further said government’s intention to supply root stalks seedlings to farmers should be replaced with grafted one.
“This is a big issue that can send the industry back because rafted seedlings have been recommended by CSIR and others. So, we are appealing to them to supply the assemblies with grafted ones,” he said.
They CSOs said there must be guaranteed markets although not necessarily through a legislation.
“Is government now ready to buy off their produce if there is over production and the market cannot take it ? They should make sure prices that will be offered that will be good to recover cost and induce the producers to continue to be in production,” Mr Kareweh said.
Ms Adongo said the market strategy should be structured such that those in the value chain just by looking at just by looking at it would know where to get market.
“The conducive environment should be created for exports because there are people who will grow the tree crops and there are those who will export since the focus is for export,” she added.